“To graciously receive is an expression of the dignity of giving.” Deepak Chopra
The spirit of Christmas—giving. Yet for us to give, someone must receive. The joy of giving depends on it.
I was thinking about writing a blog this week for readers who find themselves not in a relationship right now. People who may feel alone or lonely over the holidays.
I called my friend, Maddie. She lives in New York, and is celebrating her first Christmas post-divorce, and her first without her eldest son, who’s just moved across country. Maddie loves her independent life. In fact, she was the one who pulled the trigger (last January) on a marriage that hadn’t been working for some time. But as we talked, I realized there was another topic that needed to be addressed.
As much as Maddie was anticipating a joyful Christmas with family, she knew the time would come on Christmas day when everyone would leave to spend time with her ex, and she’d be alone. “Yes, Betty. I’ll be that person who is alone on Christmas. A stereotype watching cheesy Lifetime holiday movies.”
But then I found out that Maddie’s friend had invited her to join her and her husband and stepson for dinner on Christmas evening. Maddie was touched, but felt awkward. She had turned down the invitation. She wasn’t sure it was right. She didn’t want to impose.
That’s when I butted in. “Hold the phone,” I said. “What are you talking about?”
I asked her three questions:
- Does your friend care about you? (Answer, yes, she is a close friend.)
- Would she love to see you? (Answer, well, she probably would. Her own daughters were away for the holiday and she had told Maddie it would feel more “festive” to have her come over.)
- Would you enjoy joining them for dinner? (Well, yes, it would be fun, and less lonely, to go over there.)
“WHAT IS THE PROBLEM?” I asked.
Here’s the thing. People love to give to others. They love to help. They get pleasure from pleasing those they love, and even strangers. If you have ever smiled inside and out as you watched someone open a gift from you, or eat a meal you prepared with love, or just accepted a loving hug on a dark day, you know the joy of giving.
There is as much beauty in receiving as there is in giving.
I’m not talking about greed, privilege, entitlement… I’m talking about the gracious receipt of love proffered. The opening of the heart that takes place when we allow others to give to us.
People get so wrapped up in giving that they become unfamiliar with the idea of being served, honored, cherished, spoiled, or even loved. When that happens to us, we make mistakes–
- We say “No, thank you” to a heartfelt offer or invitation because we assume we are imposing. Instead we need to give credit to the giver/inviter. If he or she is offering, assume it is not an act of self-immolation but rather borne of a gracious desire to please and comfort YOU.
- We compete. We tell ourselves we are just “giving in return” but we are really almost negating the generous act by cancelling it out with our urge for reciprocity. Don’t one-up them, thank them.
- We forget to say a simple thank you. In our eagerness to convince the other person that he or she is actually “too kind” or “should not have” or explain “but I didn’t get you anything” we forget to just say, “Hey, thanks. That was very nice of you.”
- We miss beautiful opportunities to connect and become closer to others. Just as giving is a joy, so can be receiving. If you snub an offer, a gift, or an invitation, it is as if you are shunning a person’s love, or at least his or her loving gesture. When you look at it that way, it seems almost unkind, doesn’t it?
After I talked to Maddie, she called her friend and said, “I would really love to join you for dinner on Christmas. Thank you so much for the invitation. It means a lot to me.” Her friend was thrilled.
Whether you are surrounded by people on the holidays or not, making, doing, cooking, giving, or being coddled by someone who loves you very much, remember to receive graciously, and allow the giver to experience the joy that comes with giving.