By Linda Commito
“You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.”– Kahlil Gibran
Gratitude is an attitude of loving acknowledgement that comes directly from the heart, a perspective that can help us to become more joyful and fulfilled in our lives. When I was compiling stories for my book Love Is the New Currency (www.loveisthenewcurrency.com), I found that the exchange of giving and receiving and the belief structures that we hold around this universal cycle can impact our ability to appreciate and have true gratitude for the gifts and opportunities life offers us.
For example, negative emotions such as guilt often enter the mix or we start to feel that quid pro quo is necessary. The following two stories provide a new vantage point from which we can see how the flow of generosity and the energy of giving and receiving actually work in our world and, in turn, understand how to better open our hearts to experience the full blessings of love.
The Flow of Generosity
Giving in any form makes you feel rich, but especially when giving from the heart. The more you give, the better you feel, and so you are likely to give even more. Studies have shown it’s usually the giver who reaps the highest psychological benefit from the exchange. But is this innate or conditioned? Assuming this is a conditioned response, learned through repeated reminders of the “joy of giving,” it seems reasonable that we could also learn to have gratitude for the “joy of receiving.” And if it is an innate characteristic, why wouldn’t we allow others the chance to experience joy by letting them give to us?
It may be difficult to receive with graciousness and ease when one has been raised to believe that “it’s better to give than to receive,” or from a puritanical perspective, “you need to work for what you get.”
Somewhere along the way, we may have gotten the message that the more powerful and better position to be in is that of the giver, whereas, the recipient is seen as needier or weaker. As the giver, we choose how, when, and what to give. Oftentimes, the recipient feels an unspoken debt that needs to be acknowledged or paid back, even when they didn’t get what they wanted, needed, or even asked for.
In our quid pro quo society, one can’t assume that a gift is given with no strings attached. A newly married young woman was asked by her in-laws to keep a list of the people who gave money and gifts to the couple, which she had planned to do in order to write thank you notes. But when she refused to share that list, her in-laws were furious, saying, “How do we know what to give to them (the wedding guests) later, if we don’t know what they gave to you?”
Is it a “gift” if the donor believes that what was given should be paid back in equal measure? We may consider reciprocity an equitable solution to giving and receiving, but even the terminology indicates that there’s an accounting on both sides. When we operate from a qualified need to give back something of equal or greater value, the desire to even the balance sheet diminishes the experience for both people.
Most people don’t want to be called a “taker,” with all of its negative connotations. It stems from a feeling of entitlement, a one-sided relationship that may offer immediate gratification, but eventually creates a stuck energy.
On the other hand, gracious receiving originates from a place of gratitude for the chance to connect at a deeper level. In order to fully and openly receive, we have to feel worthy. We also have to be willing to allow someone to give to us without the compulsion to even the score.
Ultimately, the value of a gift lies in what it represents—friendship, love, respect, and caring. When our giving and receiving derive from a source of joy, we create a balance and an equilibrium that is life-affirming.
And when people give and receive with an open heart, without expectations, it circulates loving energy that everyone wants to be a part of.
Energy of Giving and Receiving
Whatever we put out into the world—thoughts, actions, words or energy—comes back to us multiplied. We want to make sure that what we give out or take in is positive, and that it has a circular, rather than a one-way flow of energy. For example, when we refuse to accept gifts from others it blocks the circular flow of energy—there is only an outflow.
Ernest Holmes, the founder of Science of Mind stated, “When the law of circulation is retarded, stagnation results.” That stuck energy can come from negative thoughts, self-motivated intentions, or the refusal or inability to give and receive with equanimity.
The law of attraction states that what you focus on is what you draw into your life. Sometimes the best way to get more of what you want in your life is to give away whatever you want to receive, whether it is kindness, love, compassion, or your currency of choice. When you give freely and joyfully from your heart, sharing your time, knowledge, resources, and energy, according to the law of attraction, it will come back to you in abundance.
What you get back, though, may come to you indirectly, in unexpected ways, or from people that you don’t know. It may show up in the form of things you need, people that cross your path at the right time, or money that turns up just when you need it.
While “giving” is considered a virtue, we often forget that it’s equally important to be able to receive from others, so that they are allowed to participate in the same circular flow of giving and receiving.
My friend Jessie and I were walking into town when I noticed a man sitting on a stool on the sidewalk, with some kind of a folding tray in front of him, against which leaned a sign: VETERAN. Just before reaching him, I searched my purse for the loose dollar bill that I had seen earlier, having left my wallet in the car. I couldn’t find it, but I wanted to give him something. I dug deep and found some loose coins in the bottom of my bag. I walked up to him, half apologizing that I didn’t have more to offer.
Wearing a torn tee shirt, his weathered, but ruggedly handsome face, broke into a smile as he accepted the change. When I turned to leave, he said, “Wait, I want to give this to you,” and he handed me a scroll. “It’s my artwork.” I was touched by his gracious giving and desire to share something special with me.
As Jessie and I walked away I said, “I wish I could at least find that dollar bill.” I reached once more into the purse and there it was. I was so happy to turn around and offer it to him, and we smiled at each other, grateful for the heart exchange.
Jessie and I continued our walk to town, and she commented, “Wow, what an awesome experience!” In just a few moments, giver and receiver (and I’m not even sure which was which), as well as the witness were changed. When we got to the car and I opened the scroll, there was a beautiful drawing of a dove, a cross, and a crown of thorns, along with the artist’s story of redemption.
And it doesn’t stop there. Jessie admired the scroll, which soon found its way into the gift bag with her other birthday presents.
Linda Commito, author, speaker, entrepreneur, consultant and teacher, is passionate about her vision to leave this world a kinder, more compassionate and interconnected place. Her award-winning book of inspirational stories, Love is the New Currency, demonstrates how we can each make a positive difference in the lives of others
through simple acts of love and kindness. Visit http://www.loveisthenewcurrency.com for more information and/or to sign up for an uplifting monthly newsletter. Read about everyday acts of kindness on http://www.FB.com/kindnesscollaborative. Linda believes that in order to inspire a kinder world the place to start is with children. She volunteered at a Title One elementary school, working with over 500 students, to create and facilitate “Kindness Starts with Me,” a program which includes a website (http://www.kindnessstartswithme.com) and a book for children.