Friday, January 13, 2012

5 Things I’ve Learned about Receiving

Day 13 of Your Year to Wellness

Receiving The Clifford Brown Award from Mayor Jim Baker in Wilmington,DE
Still learning to receive all that wellness offers

A few weeks before my mother died, she told me something essential to my existence. We were eating lunch together in her bedroom and watching Bonanza. (Okay, she was watching it.) She looked over to me and out of some thought that she alone was privy to she said, “Bertice you are going to have to learn to receive. You are a wonderful giver, but you don’t know how to receive and life is in the balance.”

As I write this I am filled with the moment and I can see my dear mother again. I knew what she meant when she said it, but I didn’t want to accept her truth. Instead I smiled and said, “Okay mom, try to rest.” She protested and was not to be brushed off easily as she had important words and was going to speak them. She went on to say that I ate too fast and that it was bound to cause problems. In that session, she also taught me how to hand wash those clothes which are “dry clean only,” but the lesson of receiving was the point she was really trying to convey. I had no idea that in just a few weeks, she would be gone from my physical life and that she was preparing me for life without her.

That lesson came back to me again yesterday when I spoke to a group of folks from ECOLAB. After I spoke the audience of world class folks who literally pour their lives into their work and the work of their clients stood in applause for an uncomfortably long time and then waited to shake hands or hug me and to say thank you again. Many greeted me in tears while some just broke down and wept. “You moved me and I am changed.” One man said. Embarrassed and somewhat shy, I said thank you over and over again until I could feel its effect. The practice of feeling the gratitude of others is something I’ve been working on and it’s becoming a bit more natural but when you have learned to be a giver, rarely do you lean to receive.

What is it that makes a woman mumble “This old thing,” when someone compliments her on her new dress? Why do we blush (and yes, black people blush) when someone says “You look pretty.” I have found that some folks tend to be more prepared for criticism than they are for kindness and that this lends itself to an imbalanced life. 

A few years ago, when people began to notice my weight loss, I got three different types of reactions: People would look and then look away (yes, I saw you.) There were those who would may passively negative comments, like “Oh you are losing weight let’s see if you can keep it off this time.” And then there were those who would jump for joy, take pictures and happily point out even the smallest change to anyone nearby. Sadly I was least comfortable with the third reaction.

When I began to see a pattern in the behavior of others, (I was able to see how others felt about themselves by how they reacted to me) I could also predict the outcomes of my own behavior. I noticed that I tended to gravitate to relationships with those who were less complimentary than I was with those who adored me. When I saw the pattern, I immediately set out to change it. 

Here’s what I’ve learned:

·         The mirror effect—a compliment for you is a reflection of what someone would like to see or have seen in themselves. When you receive the compliment, you are enabling the giver to receive the joy they need too.

·         True praise—we’ve all been prepared for false praise; too prepared. We are more inclined to believe that someone is trying to flatter than we are to believe that the compliment is true. You know the compliment is true when it reflects the unspoken goal you’ve been working on.

·         Critical people have been criticized harshly—people who tend to criticize often have been harshly criticized themselves. Most likely it happened in their youth and has had a lasting impression. These people rarely compliment others and refuse to accept a compliment for themselves; keep on loving them. All of the best foods are crunchy on the outside yet tender on the inside. (I was thinking of celery, really.)

·         Taking a compliment is like receiving a meal from a poor person--when people who have little to give offer you food, it is an offence to refuse it. You should share the meal with gratitude, never ask for more and share something of yourself. When someone compliments me on something I’m wearing, I thank them, and then I share that the item came from either a friend or a second-hand store. I tell them that I’m fortunate to have good friends and that good people recycle. I’ve shared the meal and left something in return.

·         It is more blessed to give than receive—but it is still a blessing to receive. Not being able to take is as my mother said, imbalanced.





If you are to be well, learn to receive because wellness brings many, many rewards.

Be You, Be well, BE thankful

Bertice Berry, PhD.

1 comment:

  1. Dhanyabaad (thank you in Nepali)!!!

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