As the Thanksgiving food coma wears off and the reality starts to sink in that there are mere WEEKS left of 2017, it's hard not to anticipate the next holiday on the horizon, and in particular the axiom that flavors it:
That it's better to give, than to receive.
The truth of this shows up immediately the moment your Mom or beloved asks what you want for Christmas (Chanukah/Kwanza/your cultural holiday of choice).
Has it happened already? Can't you just hear the chorus of voices around the world saying:
"Oh no Mom, I don't need anything. Please, I've got everything I need, it's enough just to be together."
This knee-jerk reaction draws attention to something that's easy to gloss over, which is:
It is inherently uncomfortable to receive the generosity of others.
Even though YOU, the receiver, are the tangible benefactor of the gift; it is actually ME, the giver, who gets to tell myself a story about how generous and thoughtful I am, when that smile spreads across your face -- or when that girl in a distant country gets to attend school next year...
... Because of MY gift.
I. Me. Mine.
Although it comes with its own set of stressors (can I afford it? Did I choose the right one? Will it make the right impression?), one could argue that giving is so enjoyable precisely because it is selfish.
And while being good at receiving seems easier and more self-indulgent by comparison ("oh wow, thanks!"), it actually comes with much more subtle and hard-to-articulate stressors.
We might wonder if we are worthy of such generosity; or imagine that we now have a "debt" to repay; or simply wish we could go on taking care of ourselves, like always.
Which causes us to say things like: "Oh... you shouldn't have."
Or we might, straight up, refuse to participate.
While there is no shortage of conversation around the benefits of giving, the benefits of learning to receive go undiscussed.
For what happens to the giver, when we are not capable of graciously receiving their gift?
It denies them the experiential gift of being the person who made you smile.
It denies them the ability to tell themselves the story of how generous and considerate they are.
It prioritizes your comfort over the joy they would get out of seeing their gift have a positive impact.
When someone offers you something -- whether a physical gift, a compliment, or their undivided attention -- how do you tend to react?
As we go deeper into "the season of giving," I invite you to reflect on whether or not you have any work to do around receiving -- and whether this inner work... could actually be a gift in itself.