For those of us that are constantly giving of ourselves, it is difficult for us to receive because we call that "taking." We have grown up with the adage, "It is better to give than to receive." However, receiving must happen in order for giving to happen. Like breathing, you cannot take a breath without expelling a breath.
As I mentioned in the November newsletter, I read the inspirational book called The Go-Giver: A Little Story about a Powerful Business Idea, a super quick and impactful read, written in 2008 by Bob Burg and John D. Mann. As a reminder, the story is about Joe who meets a series of people that teach him about the Five Laws of Success:1. The Law of Value: Your true worth is determined by how much more you give in value than you take in payment.
2. The Law of Compensation: Your income is determined by how many people you serve and how well you serve them.
3. The Law of Influence: Your influence is determined by how abundantly you place other people's interests first.
4. The Law of Authenticity: The most valuable gift you have to offer is yourself.
5. The Law of Receptivity: The key to effective giving is to stay open to receiving.
When I read Number 5: The Law of Receptivity, the giving and receiving cycle being one in the same–you have to receive in order to give–I had a light-bulb moment. All of the sudden, I had permission to allow myself to receive. In fact, this wonderful realization set the theme for my 2009 year, which became my Year to Receive (more about theme setting in the January issue). This has been my on-going theme since. Ridding myself of the "don't be a taker" idea is a hard one and may take a few years to unravel.
Receiving is the missing piece. Before 2009, loving people who offered to help and support me surrounded me. I never took anyone up on it. Instead, I would reply, "I have everything I need." "No thanks, I can do it myself." Well, you know what . . . I cannot. If you are always on the giving end and never the receiving–life feels empty, draining and lonely. Loving people might surround you but if you do not receive their love and support, you are left feeling alone and empty.
There is an old Christian song called The Servant's Song by Richard Gillard that goes like this:
We are pilgrims on a journey.
We are travelers on the road.
We are here to help each other
Walk the mile and bear the load.
Though I had sung this tune many times before, once I recognized the law of Receptivity, I bawled when I sang it. Yep. I am sure those around me were wondering what was going on. What a powerful realization–we are all here to help each other.
In the past, I have walked away from friendships because the other party was a "super-taker." How much of the responsibility of the relationship ending was because I never gave these people a chance to give to me? I was so busy complementing, sharing, supporting and helping that I never gave these people a chance to reciprocate; I never received what they were trying to give me.
In the years since 2009, I have been on the path to receiving and have noticed several ways we hinder this process.
When receiving kind words like "What a pretty dress." We often respond with "Oh, this old thing. I got it at the Goodwill for $4.99." Rather than saying, "Thank you. How nice of you to notice." It is important not to deflect these affirming words but to welcome them. Breathe in the complement and let it find its resting place in your soul. If it is received with a, "Oh no, the lighting is just good," the complement is essentially worthless. The person giving the complement does not get the satisfaction of having said something nice. It is as though you did not even hear it.
People often struggle with the humility required to receive a gift graciously. Here are some things I have heard recently when giving gifts at Christmas: "I thought we were not giving gifts this year? You did not have to do that." Sadly, these both negate the giving efforts. Why not just say, "Thank you so much for this thoughtful gift. I will put it to good use." This may mean re-gifting, of which I am a big fan.
This brings to mind another great book, The Five Love Languages, written by Gary Chapman. In his book, Mr. Chapman presents five different ways people show love to and perceive love from others. They are:
- Sharing words of affirmation–saying nice things
- Performing Acts of Service–doing nice things for others
- Giving actual gifts
- Spending quality time with others
- Physically touching–showing affection
Chapman teaches that everyone shows love and perceives love in one of these five ways. If someone is giving you a complement this is his or her way of showing you love. If they give a physical gift it is their way of showing love. This is such an essential part of our make-up. Who are we to negate someone's efforts to show us love with a disregarding comment?
The Christmas season is a time to acknowledge peoples' importance in our lives. It is a time we show love to others. Consider how you respond to gifts and kind words shared this year. Allow yourself to receive.
Gift giving is most often done out of the pure pleasure of giving to others, acknowledging their importance in your life, and showing them love. When people give something to you, thank them for thinking of you and know that it means you are special and that they love you. Choose your words carefully and acknowledge the effort. Remain open to receiving and see how things change in your life as a result.
Amazing photo of hands from http://www.natfonline.org.