The Gift of Receiving

Last updated on December 9, 2020

Christmas ornament
Christmas is a time of giving, but it’s also a time of receiving.

Receiving Is Underrated

If you listen to the wisdom of others, you’ll often hear about the value of giving. How it brings joy to give, whether it be giving a gift to another person, giving money, giving time (volunteering), giving love, support, knowledge, even wisdom.

Giving is a huge turnaround for most of us because we are so often concerned about what we want to get. To give opens up the path of service. This helps to take us out of our selfishness which causes so much suffering.

But Even Turnarounds Have Turnarounds

It just depends how subtle you want to get. In addition to the huge value in giving, there is also a huge value in receiving.

Imagine you are giving someone something out of pure generosity on your part. But imagine that the other person can’t receive it. They deflect it in some way, or keep score in order to “pay you back,” or simply refuse your gift.

How does it feel when someone doesn’t receive your generosity? For me, it often feels like rejection, and brings sadness. It also makes me stay more distant from this person.

Now Imagine the Person Receives your Gift

How does it feel by comparison?

For me I feel my heart expand. I love them. I feel happy. I feel closer, more connected, and glad that I gave it. It’s like I received a huge gift in return.

This is the gift of receiving. It is a true gift. And one that can touch the giver deeply.

Many of us Resist Receiving

We have our reasons not to receive a gift fully:

It’s selfish to receive.
I don’t deserve it.
They’ll think I’m not generous.
I have to reciprocate.
I can’t afford to give back in equal measure.
It makes me dependent on them.
It means I can’t take care of myself.

And so we push it away in one way or another. As a result, we miss the gift that came to us unasked, and we deprive the giver of the gift of receiving.

But You Can’t Just Stop It

It’s not that easy. Not giving is an old habit. And not receiving is an equally old habit. Even understanding this doesn’t help much. There are powerful motives that keep us from giving and receiving.

Receiving is death to the ego. It is total humility. It is the end of “I am an independent person who can take care of myself.” To fully receive, a lot of stressful beliefs have to fall away.

And equally true, in order to give, other stressful beliefs have to fall away. Thoughts like, “I don’t want give” or “I give too much,” or “I need them to like it.”

That’s why I love using stressful situations related to giving and receiving as a starting place for doing The Work of Byron Katie.

Doing The Work on It

The Work is a way to slow down and look at all sides of things. This process gives me a way to re-experience anything from a broader perspective. And it shifts the way I see things not just intellectually, but emotionally.

All it takes to do The Work on this topic is to find a specific situation where someone gave you something and you deflected it somehow (this can be subtle, maybe it was just the thought that they expect something in return, or maybe it was a compliment you brushed away).

Find a specific moment when you could not fully receive and write a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet on the person who was giving to you, then question each statement you write. If you do this work, you may find that the resistance you had to receiving falls away. And what remains is humility, love, and connection.

And the same goes for any situation where you gave something and someone didn’t receive it. That’s a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet on the person who didn’t receive. Can you find a way to be peaceful on that side of the situation too?

Giving and receiving can be a wonderful place to do The Work whether you’re the giver or the receiver. In a way every interaction is about giving and receiving.

Join us in January for The Work 101, my eight-week online course in The Work of Byron Katie.

Merry Christmas,

“When a friend gives me a gift, the gift is in the receiving. In that, it’s over, and then I notice that I give the object away or keep it for a while.” Byron Katie, A Thousand Names for Joy

About the author

Todd Smith has been doing The Work of Byron Katie on an almost daily basis since 2007. He is just as excited about this simple process of self-inquiry today as he was when he first came across it. He also enjoys writing about The Work, and training others in the subtleties of this meditative process. Join Todd for The Work 101 online course, private sessions, virtual retreats, and his ongoing Inquiry Circle group.

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