Yesterday’s post discussed how love is a very valuable skill in all areas of our lives. We explored the idea of exercising our love for others by not selecting only those that are easy to love to share with, but by seeing those that are more difficult to love as an opportunity to exercise love as a skill and get better at it.
My wife made a fantastic point that I captured that idea from just one side: the manly side that expects love because I love myself. What a typical, prideful, “man” thing to do, right!? Honestly, it comes from a place not of conceit, but from a healthy view that I accept myself and that I am worth love no matter what I am not enough for. Ask me 5 years ago if I could receive love well and I would not have been able to look you in the eye. She said many women struggle not with giving love, but actually receiving love. They reject compliments, they hide behind a stone face when their hearts push for connection. I know many men who have expressed a similar response to love as well. Do you cringe at the idea of attention? Not just as an introverted tendency to not be the center of attention, but actually anxious or nervous about receiving in general?
My Grammy is the first person that comes to mind when I think of rejecting compliments. She will make a flawless cake or meal and after expressing my wows she immediately replies “oh it’s terrible” with a cute laugh at herself. We all laugh with her, but on a more serious side, I wonder why we do this.
John Amodeo, a Psychologist and popular blogger for Psychology Today, wrote a great article on this topic. His full post 5 Reasons Why Receiving Is Harder Than Giving is found here. He says in his book Dancing With Fire: A Mindful Way To Loving Relationships, Amodeo says, “The parched earth cannot let in a life-giving rain if it is covered by plastic.” He says destructive narcissism, or seeing ourselves as above and not worthy than others, runs wild in today’s world but a healthy view of self-worth and a tender right to relish life’s pleasures can give us the balance we are looking for. This may be a good thing to keep in mind if you are concerned that receiving will push you into the status of a greedy, immature monster.
Whether you have a fear of intimacy or letting go of control or of strings attached or thinking it is selfish to receive or feel pressure to reciprocate, all of these 5 reasons have one thing in common: fear. We are afraid of intimacy because of past abuses. We are afraid to receive because giving keeps us in control and that is a comfortable place given what we expect from others. We are afraid of the strings attached that compliments may bring based on how we have been manipulated before. We are afraid of becoming selfish so we put a bubble up around receiving. We are afraid of the motives of others because of how we have been used before. We are afraid. We have gotten so good at protecting ourselves that we have built a nice, photogenic, but dark and lonely cave to live in.
In light of the quote above from Dancing With Fire, the scripture Isaiah 55:11 comes to mind. God reminds us here that His Word is sent to produce and to accomplish something. His Word is Love and others carry that word to us. Our job sometimes is to receive it and let it break us down. This doesn’t mean accept the first manipulative compliment with a hidden motive and claim it as love. More on that tomorrow. We are taught in 1 John 4:18 that “perfect love casts out fear.” We were given the path to this perfect love and it starts by believing we are worth love no matter how we look, what we can or cannot do, or who we came from.