Letting Love In

By Jim Selman | Bio

For years I have thought that we should put a lot more effort into learning how to receive. I grew up with the idea that it is “better to give than receive” and have tried to live by that maxim to the best of my ability. This is not to say there haven’t been plenty of selfish moments along the way. But I am not talking about being selfish. I am talking about the value of being truly open to receiving what others wish to give—and not just material gifts—also things like love, appreciation, acknowledgement, and gratitude. If everyone is giving, then we’re going to be frustrated (at best) unless at least half of us are receiving.

Learning to receive is not so easy. First, when people ‘give’, it says more about them than those whom they are giving to. Their ‘generosity’, whether material or spiritual, is a reflection of who they are. If we reject or deflect their giving, we are judging ourselves based on our ego-centered point of view. Essentially we are saying they are wrong to see us “that way” or that we are not worthy of their gift.

Eldering is about giving the best of who we are and what we know to others in a manner that brings out the best in them. But creating the space for this to happen also means that Elders must be open to receiving the gifts of those who are younger as well.

One of the things I have learned is that no one really listens until we listen to them first. Try making a list of all the things that your children or others have given you over the past week. See if you are listening “FOR” what others want to contribute to you personally. Quite often, what we see that others need to learn, we need to learn ourselves.

Last week my daughter expressed her concerns about a real estate investment I am making. She was concerned that I was being ‘too emotional’ and might be making a mistake. I noticed my first thought was to explain and justify what I was doing. On reflection, all that was required from me was a “Thank you” and a space for her to express her love and commitment to my wellbeing. I have felt this for years from the other side.

My father is an extraordinarily self-sufficient and competent man. It is difficult to do much for him. He is always focused on what he can do for us. Recently, he has opened up and allowed me to contribute in all sorts of way—from helping set up something on his computer to advising him that it is time to give up his driver’s license. The satisfaction he gives me by this openness to receive is priceless and has helped us grow even closer as the years pass.

My point: wisdom is as much about receiving as it is about giving.

© 2009 Jim Selman. All rights reserved.