The Sacred Art of Receiving

We all believe that it’s a good thing to give.

We celebrate when the wealthy selflessly share their riches with the poor and needy.

We feel saddened by those instances in which people refuse to share their abundance when it would have been easy for them to have done so.

We encourage our children to share with others.

When someone sacrifices life’s comforts and luxuries in order to dedicate their time and resources to helping those in need, we deem them saints for having done so.

Many of us even fantasize about being in a financial position that allows us to be of greater assistance to those we love.

It’s hard to criticize a giver. The virtue of generosity is obvious.

Yet, here’s a simple little fact that we often forget about the giving game:  Giving is a team sport.

It’s impossible for a person to give unless another person is willing to receive. If giving is such a sacred practice for human beings to engage in, then you might be depriving people of one of life’s most wonderful opportunities when you refuse to let them do good for you.

When people offer us gifts or other tokens of appreciation, it can be difficult to accept their offerings. When you have moments like this, remember the following: it’s not always about you. It’s not always about your reputation for never needing anyone’s help. It’s not always about your insecurities regarding what other people will think of you for receiving help. It’s not always about your need to feel like you match the contributions other people make in your life. Sometimes it’s simply about allowing other people the opportunity to participate in the joy of giving.

Back when I was when in college, my older brother came to visit me. While we were hanging out in my dorm room, I unwittingly mentioned my need for new gym shoes. I wasn’t begging for his help. I was just making a casual remark. Right then and there, he took off his Allen Iverson shoes (not cheap) and said “I want you to have these.” I responded by going into my “But I don’t deserve this….but how will I pay you back….but what about you….but what will I owe you….but I’m not the kind of guy who leeches off the resources of others….but I can provide for myself…” routine. My brother quickly advised me to get over myself. Then he informed me that by refusing to take his gift, I was denying him the chance to embody his philosophy, do something he believed in, and generate good karma in his life. It wasn’t easy, but I gave in and allowed him to bless me with his expensive pair of gym shoes. Poor me, right?

You don’t need to accept every gift that’s offered to you, but it might help to remember that the decision to let people help you can be just as sacred as their decision to be generous. You can’t have one without the other. If no one is willing to receive, no one gets to be generous. The charity of one requires the cooperation of many.

Are you too good to be the beneficiary of good? Help make the world a more generous place by practicing the sacred art of receiving. When it’s your turn to give, you’ll appreciate it.