The Other Side of Kindness: Learning to Receive


Learning to receive has been one of the greater gifts of my life thus far.

When you think of someone who is “kind”, what are some of the characteristics you imagine that person possessing? Warm, friendly eyes; a gentle, gracious smile…and then what? Most people believe that generosity tops the list. Kind people are givers; they are charitable, compassionate, considerate, and philanthropic.

In our society, women often will give, and give, and give, until exhaustion. We have been trained to put the needs of our families, and sometimes even our friends and communities, above our own. We express and prove our goodness, our worthiness, by giving. After all of our practice, we have gotten giving down to a science. We do it without even thinking; it’s become automatic.

But what about receiving? Do we consider it an act of kindness to take?

How are we at receiving gifts, compliments, praise?

I know I have struggled with receiving things great and small for my entire life. Just recently I was on a cruise, and this man told me I was beautiful and showed me a picture he took of me. My immediate reaction was to become immediately nauseated and judge myself, because my hormones had been teasing me by flying all over the place, and my body didn’t look to me like it usually does. So I volleyed his compliment back at him with a series of gags. (Irresistible, I know.)

When people would give me presents for my birthday or a holiday, horrible feelings of unworthiness would flood my body. On the outside, I would squeal with joy, express gratitude and smile grandly. Inside, however, this weird sense of shame would overcome me and immediately I would have this sense of being indebted to the benefactor, like I suddenly owed them something equally fabulous in return. How could I ever repay them? My mind would scramble to come up with an equivalent offering and it would always seem like it fell short, which would leave me feeling nervous and breathless.

Just recently I discovered I have had it backwards all along.

Life is all about flow. Inhale and exhale. Your heart beats lub-dub. Give and take. By closing ourselves off to the gifts that others are presenting to us, we are shutting down the very flow of life. We are preventing the goodness that we put out there from returning to us the way the laws of nature intended. Upon close examination of quantum physics, the Bible, and all of the other wisdom traditions, we can find the promise that what we put “out there” will “come back” to us, multiplied. By not being open to receive, we are literally blocking ourselves off from our karma, the magic that is supposed to come to us. We are standing in our own way of our happiness by stopping the wheel of consequences from spinning.

Not only that, we are preventing others from receiving the incredible gifts and blessings that go hand-in-hand with the act of giving. When a friend says “you look nice” and you reply “what, this old thing? I got it at Target on sale and it’s five years old” you prohibit them from receiving the magnificent feelings and goodness they would experience if you had instead received and accepted the compliment.

It feels so good to help a friend in need, lend a hand to a stranger, brighten someone’s day with kind words, or give someone a present you know they will love. Giving lets a person define themselves as generous, charitable and kind. And it puts into place the magical tidal wave that gets sent out, only to build and swell on its way back to them. However, when we don’t allow others to give to us, this instantly flattens the wave, and the whole entire flow gets stopped on a dime. Plus, we miss out on the fun things that were in store for us by their creative offerings.

None of that sounds very fun!

So the next time someone wants to give you something, whether it be a gift, a compliment, some type of service, or even just a smile… before you immediately bat it away in a nervous huff, remember that the most generous thing you can do is to pick up what they are putting down. Take it in. Allow it and accept it with gratitude. Instead of focusing on yourself and how uncomfortable you are, turn your powerful spotlight of focus on them, and how their face is shining in joy from this opportunity you are granting them.


Rebecca Marie

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