We’re all familiar with the proverb, “Never look a gift horse in the mouth.”
It’s a neat saying which historically refers to the specialist task of being able to determine a horse’s age by examining its teeth. On an advisory level it urges the humble acceptance of a gift without implying you wished it were more by questioning its value.
We humans are fickle creatures who, at the best of times, have a hard time being simple, still, and just grateful for the multifarious gifts of life. We like to examine, analyze, pick apart, and question—everything from deep space to a kiss from a child.
And we’re horrendous at the humble, simple acceptance, of praise.
I wonder why? So come wonder with me.
I am as much a culprit of lame reception of praise as the next person. My invariable response to a compliment is, not so much to analyze its justification, but to qualify my response: “Thanks, I really enjoyed writing that article. It’s a subject I’m very interested in; and was a fun one for me to research.”
Stop! Silence the compulsive voice of qualification. It’s superfluous and annoying.
Just say ‘Thanks’ and allow the warm glow of gratification to wash over you. It’s deserved and doesn’t need to be analyzed or qualified in any measure.
Because our corporate, techno-driven society is all about busily doing and producing, many of us simply get consumed by the energy of producing. Consequently, as spent producers, we have little or no time for the quiet, less frenetic art of receiving; nor, I surmise, do we place much value on the place and importance of this art.
Another kink in the art of receiving is: we are so conditioned by the belief that all merit and praise need to be assiduously earned, that we’re simply ill-equipped to receive.
Ironically, for many, it’s hard work!
Whether it’s taking a moment to humbly acknowledge our achievements as parents, teachers, students, or lovers; or simply allowing the warmth of the sun to bathe us in free, inexhaustible energy, a sense of wonder and heart of gratitude are truly the apropos responses to life’s bountiful gifts.
As for the giving and receiving of material gifts—and this is a whole other subject as we approach the holiday season—I suggest three simple objectives:
- Not harboring any expectations re what you are going (or hoping) to receive; just let the surprise (and love) element delight you.
- Not focusing (obsessively) on what to get your partner, friend, mail carrier, or whomever; there is more than a grain of truth in the adage: “It’s the thought that counts.” So let the fondness in your heart; and your spirit of intuitive ‘knowing’ guide you.
- If you don’t plan on giving this holiday season; or are not really expecting to receive much (materially), know that that is A-okay! A heart brimming with kindness and compassion; and a soul that delights in receiving the ‘unexpected’ surprise, are the most endearing gifts imaginable.
Carolos Santana (legendary Latino musician) in his recently published memoir, The Universal Tone: Bringing My Story to Light, notes how when someone pays him a compliment, his response is, “Thank you, I am a reflection of your light.”
As a humble response in those moments of praise, I can live with that one!
Happy Holiday Season.
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Author: Gerard Murphy
Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: Tony Gladvin George at Flickr
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