Many of us have heard the verse “God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7) We smile and nod and maybe feel a little guilty for the times we have been a little selfish. But overall, it is something that makes sense to most of us. We should focus on being a generous and giving person. But being a cheerful giver is only half the equation. We are missing a very important piece of the process.
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Years ago a friend taught the community I was a part of at the time a great practice. He said, “When someone offers you a compliment or speaks into your life: look them in the eye, open your hands palms up and say, ‘thank you, I receive that.’” It is a powerful practice because we often dismiss fully or partially the gifts offered to us. We are not good at receiving.
Just think about the last time you had to ask for help. Think about what it is like to receive something that you didn’t somehow earn. Many of us have a “I’m not a charity case, I earn my keep” mentality that has one foot in pride and another in isolation. Like the three-year-old who is about to pour the gallon of milk and pushes daddy’s hand away “I do it myself!.” Little do you know you are about to make a big mess.
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I don’t remember much of my grandfather, but I am told he had a saying that goes like this: “God loves a cheerful giver but adores a cheerful receiver.” This may not be accurate scripture but it is helpful to live by. The reason is twofold: I cannot be affected by what I don’t receive or let in AND I cannot offer what I haven’t received.
I cannot be affected by what I don’t receive
To receive is vulnerable, much more vulnerable than giving. I can control what and how I give. I am completely naked and at the mercy of someone else when I receive. Instead of learning how to live in this vulnerability, many of us decide to just avoid asking for or receiving the help we need. We create covertly dismissive responses to compliments or encouragements. If we do receive a gift, we add it onto a long list of favors that will have to be repaid somehow. We go to a lot of work to avoid the beautiful gift of love that people are trying to give us. Is it worth it?
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I cannot offer what I haven’t received
Even if we want to be good and cheerful givers it is hard to do so when we don’t have step one of this process. Step one is receiving. How can we ask someone else to receive something that we ourselves are not willing to receive? How do we even have love to give if we are not willing to be filled by love from some other source first? So, we offer from an empty well. Scraping the bottom, pulling up with weary hands, a bucket filled with mostly mud, instead of life-giving water. Many of us feel burned out, anxious, or depressed because we feel the pressure to keep giving, yet when we look at the stores we are giving from we know that there really isn’t much left.
Work on receiving. Next time someone gives you a compliment, an encouragement, constructive criticism, or challenges you to show up fully try this: look them in the eye, open your hands palms up and say, “thank you, I receive that.”