The Generosity of Receiving
August 14, 2008, 10:29 am
Filed under: spiritual formation

I recently spent a large chunk of time with someone I value a lot, and who I’ve always thought of as an extremely generous person.  I admire the giving attitude and sharing I’ve seen demonstrated over the course of many years.  One thing doesn’t quite add up, though – most attempts to give back to this person are met with resistance. “Oh no, don’t do that” or “That’s o.k,, I can do it” or “Let me pay for that.”  This goes well beyond simply courtesy statements, too.

It made me ask a question about true generosity – is it possible to be a great giver without being able to also be a gracious receiver?

From my perspective, I found it frustrating to want to share myself and my resources with someone who has given vastly more to me, but to not be allowed to.  It was disappointing.

Even as I write this, though, I feel the weight of my own hypocrisy.  I often have a pretty difficult time receiving help.  People around me offer to do work with me, and I’ll thank them as I’m turning them down.  Perhaps the most readily recognizable example of this is during our Thursday community meal times at The Purple Door.  I really enjoy cooking for large groups, and putting my heart into it.  But during the prep times each week, people will come hang out with me in the kitchen and they offer to help – whether it’s chopping vegetables or stirring a pot, or making some iced tea, and I am not very good at just saying, “Yeah, sure, if you want to make the salad, that’d be great!  Thanks, I really appreciate that.”  Instead, we sometimes have three or four people standing around talking and watching me run around frantic because I’m late getting dinner finished . . . mostly because I won’t receive help graciously.  And don’t even get me started when it comes to asking for help.

I’m sure this says a lot about my inner feelings of inferiority or whatever.  But I’m going to set out to be a better receiver.  I still love giving and sharing with others, so I won’t stop doing that – but I want to grow in my generosity by just saying “Yes, please” and “thank you.”


1 Comment so far
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I like this post quite a bit. You are obviously quite self-aware.

I don’t think I have much to add, but good on you for thinking it through!

Comment by reibwo

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