An Attitude of Gratitude
What do you do when someone tosses a ball at you? You reach out and catch it, right? Someone once told me that about compliments. What I mean is, most of us are not very good at accepting compliments. When someone says, “That’s a beautiful dress”, we answer, “What this old thing?”. Or “Your hair looks nice today“ and we say “Oh, I need to get it cut”. When we give those kinds of answers, we’re letting the ball drop instead of catching it.
Most of us are not schooled in how to graciously receive (compliments).
Accepting compliments, or gifts, or acts of kindness, or anything else positive, is an art. And, it takes conscious awareness to learn the art. Usually, we find it more comfortable to give. But aren’t the two really intertwined?
A friend said to me last night, “to truly understand the art of giving we must first learn know how to receive with an open heart.” That struck me as very profound; wise friend. But think about it for a minute. Hear what she’s saying. We think if we rush out two days before Christmas and comb the mall we’ll find the perfect gift for Aunt Rita. But if we stop and think for a minute, we might remember how last time we visited she went through her jewelry box and gave us an old pendant she had from the 50’s. And then, we might remember how she told us she had worn it to the dance where she met Uncle Al and how they fell in love that summer.
Where is that pendant? Did we toss it into our own overflowing, unorganized jewelry box? Or, did we go home, so moved by the story, that we bought a special frame to put it in along with a picture of Aunt Rita and Uncle Al? It’s just a pendant right? No, it was a gift from the heart. Aunt Rita felt moved to give it to us because it was a treasure from her life and she knew that she wanted us to find the kind of love that she and Uncle Al had shared.
Two very different ways to receive.
If we truly listen to the message and open our hearts to feel what the giver is feeling, receiving takes on a whole new meaning. Someone recently offered me a gift that I felt was too grand to take. It made me uncomfortable. No one has ever given me anything this generous. I struggled with accepting it, quite honestly. But I realized, it was important that I accept. Not just so that I could learn the art of receiving with gratitude, but also, because the act of giving filled the giver with so much joy that to deny that would have been unforgivable.
And the most amazing part was I learned how to give with a truly open heart.
It was not the reaction I expected. But I woke up the morning after I accepted the gift and knew in my heart the gift I was intended to give was to pay it forward. I wasn’t going to give away what I received, and I wasn’t going to give it back. I was moved to hear in my heart the most gracious way to accept the gift was to give a different kind of gift to someone else. It was a beautiful revelation.
Slow down, pay attention to what that the giver is feeling when they offer you their gift. When someone tells you that you look beautiful, believe them, because what they are seeing is beauty, not the 5 extra pounds you’ve been struggling to loose. And when you’re doing your Christmas shopping for Aunt Rita, remember the love she shared with Uncle Al and how much they loved to dance together, and go to the used record store and buy a vinyl copy of the song they fell in love to. Feel what’s behind the gifts you receive, so that you will be able to give with an open heart. Give with gratitude for the person you feel moved to gift, even if it’s just a simple compliment that you are giving.