Gifts aren’t just those prettily-wrapped packages on birthdays and Christmas. They also include those tiny, every-day kindnesses that other people do for us. Whether it’s holding a door, offering a compliment or giving up a seat on the bus, the little things that we do for one another every day are small gifts that we exchange along the way.
But why do we struggle to accept the gifts we’re offered?
A couple of weeks ago I was going through the security line at an airport. The TSA guy checking our identification was wearing a nice watch. I like watches, so I complimented him on it. He shrugged and said, “It’s all I can afford.”
Since his watch was quite distinctive, I can assume that, when he was shopping for it, he wanted to get something that at least he, if not others, would admire, even if he couldn’t afford the latest Patek Philippe. And he was successful – someone else admired it. But then he brushed it off, dismissing my compliment – my small gift to him – as unwelcome.
Why is it so hard for us to accept a gift?
Why do we struggle to graciously accept a compliment or a kindness? Why do we blush and feel a little embarrassed? The armchair psychologist in me suspects that it makes us somehow feel beholden to or less-than the person offering the gift and our ego reacts. Or maybe our self-esteem is running so low that we don’t believe we deserve the compliment or the kindness.
Or perhaps we bought into all that nonsense about how it’s better to give than to receive. Think about it – for every ‘give,’ there has to be a ‘receive,’ or there couldn’t be any ‘give!’
While, giving is wonderful, it can also be seductive. Being the giver lets us be in the superior position. It lets us be the one in charge, in control. It lets us be seen as the one who has the resources to be able to give. “Look at me! I’m so wealthy and generous, I can give you this gift!” But when the tables are turned, it’s not always so easy to humbly and genuinely express gratitude and allow the other person to enjoy their generosity.
I see two opportunities for practicing fearlessness when someone offers you a gift. The first is in having the confidence to believe that you’re worthy of gifts from others. Yes, you deserve this gift! You are a person worthy of gifts, compliments, kindness and consideration! So accept it and bask in the justifiable recognition that it is.
The second is in having the humility to be grateful for what the other person has done for you. It takes a really big person to humbly and sincerely express gratitude.
Giving and receiving are like two poles of a magnet. You can’t have one without the other. So the next time someone offers you a compliment, a kindness, a courtesy… simply say, “Why, thank you very much!” and accept it for the gift that it is. Take a moment to recognize their generosity and your worthiness.