Sunday, December 2, 2012

I am a changed person, but with the same name.

Tonight's First Presidency Christmas Devotional was the best I've ever heard.  I loved it all.  Especially the recorder solo, with my flautist daughter Emily complaining that recorders are NOT flutes.  I came away with several bit-lits of stuff to work on/chew on/do.

The most changing idea for me was about being a gracious receiver.  Immediately I thought about my friend Ayako, whose rolls are celestial food.  sigh.  She let me know last night that she would be bringing some by, and I dutifully protested.  I wasn't sick or depressed, nor my family.  What could I do in exchange for these rolls?  She just wanted to be nice, and wouldn't I please just let her?  Ayako, I promise I won't protest any more but I will graciously receive with gladness!  President Uchtdorf also talked about how receiving helps us feel closer to the Lord and feel of His love. I learned that lesson the hard way three years ago, when I broke my back.  Family and my ward jumped right in and took care of us--for months.  I felt of their love, and in that love and in their eyes, I saw the love of my Father in Heaven and my Savior.  I knew how to give, but I didn't know how to receive GRACIOUSLY while in great need, and how that can change us, until then.  Now that I am back on my feet, I haven't been as great at receiving "just because"  or "birthday" love.  I am always thankful, but also usually embarrassed and don't know how to behave. So does that mean I am uncomfortable being loved by people who aren't related to me?  Maybe.  Maybe I don't give people enough credit that they can give without expecting gifts in return.  (Don't be offended, I just don't want to disappoint anyone).

 How did we get this way?  How did we start to feel like we absolutely had to be independent and that receiving assistance was weak?  How did we get to thinking that we had to reciprocate immediately to avoid "owing" anyone? (tell me you haven't had extra "neighbor gifts" ready in case someone not on your normal giving list drops by with a plate of Christmas deliciousness to avoid looking mean or thoughtless) If I receive without protest, does it make people think that I think I am so much more specialer?  I am not just being rhetorical, I really want to know.  I am one of the worst of the above kind of thinking.
The story about the little girl's gift being so poorly received reminded me of how hard my sister and I tried to (unsuccessfully) give a gift to our paternal grandmother that would receive the same kind of praise that our cousins' gifts received.  My mother taught us to be properly grateful and complimentary of gifts given to us.  Even if  it is "interesting", I never feel like I am being dishonest to gush about a gift, because I am actually gushing about the work and the intent and the love that went into it. Now if my children gave me something crafted out of styrofoam, I would feel free to drop it and punish them severely because they know darn well how much I hate the sound styrofoam makes and it would have been given with the intent to make me miserable and provoke laughter among partners in crime.

Also, it would so be a scientist who gives a little kid a barometer for Christmas!!  Well played, though, because didn't that boy grow up to be an academic himself?  Mike tried valiantly to make Hayden's first word be benzene. hahah. But he is considering careers in the sciences (ones without blood and bones).

So bring on the gifts, people! I will try to be ready! (not really--it will be hard to change). Also, please tell me if you have answers to my ponderings about how I got so messed up. About receiving. Not anything else. One problem at a time, please.


Nathaniel Wilkerson said...

I think each person is different, but there are several factors that can be at play when contemplating this topic.
I know about myself (who feels quite a bit like you) and I know somewhat what has brought be to this point in life. 1 - Someone came to my house and did my dishes once without me asking and then proceeded to tell me I will never be able to keep my husband if I don't figure out how to keep my house spotless for him.
2 - I observe individuals and have seen how people react to giving and getting of gifts. Especially when I lived in the Happy Valley Region. It was so hard because some people would complain to not getting a card back for their gift giving or another would complain about the gift they got. Those things made me uncomfortable to the point I could not feel good about just giving a gift or even getting one because I might not respond correctly.
3 - I used to make gifts that took love, time and energy to have them given back to me, sent to DI or even taken apart and remade to their liking. That caused me to feel like I should not try so hard because it is not appreciated. And if I can't give then I don't really want to get.
4 - I had someone tell me that they make sure they always give something back so they don't feel like they owe anyone when given a gift. I quickly came to understand what that meant and feel much the same way. Especially recently when I have needed help big time and was treated horribly for it. Immediately I paid back with groceries or anything I could think of so they could not say we did not give back.
As you can see there are many things that could lead to the feeling of not feeling comfortable with being gifted. No matter what the true intentions are. In truth - I could have written your very post. I am much more comfortable with giving than getting, but I do know where it stems from for myself anyway. I don't trust people.

tonya said...

I am sorry you've had such bad experiences, Cindy. That stinks. I mostly just had them with my grandma, so I still feel ok about people in general. I am blessed to live in a ward where people are so kind and thoughtful. I feel blessed to have Mike--he has been working with me to help me assume the best about people and not wonder what intentions were--just assume they are good. It has taken awhile, but his great charity for mankind is rubbing off on me. I think President Uchtdorf adressed the owing thing--it is what ties us to each other and to our Heavenly Father. We can never repay him for the sacrifice of His Son. I guess my problem with being tied to others is that I am a bit of a loner and grew up with my family being my best friends. But thank goodness for forgiveness and repentance! I will get knitted up in love comfortably someday!

B. Fiend said...

I can't answer your question fully, but it did trigger some thoughts of things I think about in my own life, and (occasionally) in my research and teaching?

1. Reciprocity is one of the strongest, most ubiquitous norms across all cultures. Everyone on earth who doesn't have something wrong with them feels at least a little need to "give back" and at least a small sense of being beholden to someone who gives them a gift. This is certainly not something weird, though individuals vary in how much they feel these things.

2. Strict, relatively immediate reciprocity seems to be the rule in the most distant of relationships. That is, if a person you barely know comes by with a huge casserole when your family is sick, you might feel a strong urge to pay them back quickly. However, if your husband did the same thing, you probably wouldn't feel the same urge to balance the accounts. One of the sweet things about more intimate relationships is that reciprocity relaxes (e.g., when I say to a colleague, "I'm sure someday it will be my turn to buy lunch; thanks") or even disappears.

3. Cultures can be described by where they are on a scale of "individualism versus collectivism." US culture, especially in the West, has always been on the individualist side of things. Recently, however (past 10 or 20 years?), there has been a movement toward even more of that. This is a political thing, but I think it's also quite relevant on the personal level. You can't live bombarded by messages of personal accountability, criticism of those on welfare, condemnation of all forms of collectivism, etc. and not be personally affected by that. I know we also have collectivist (and other) trends happening at the same time, but the politics of individualism have heated up, lately, and I suspect that activates even more of that baked-in American self-sufficiency tendency we have.

OK, I'ma stop now. I'd apologize for the length and info-dumpiness of this comment, except that you totally asked for it. Explicitly.

tonya said...

Good points, all, Darrin. I think that #2 is where I struggle--I am hesitant to form the kinds of bonds with other women where that kind of relaxing happens. And like I told Cindy, I think that as we become move closer to the Zion people we want to be, that will become more comfortable. Or natural disaster will remove all inhibitions and make us all suddenly very close.;) I am glad you reminded me of cultural differences, because in the church, we often have diversity of backgrounds and that can cause gift and gratitude misunderstandings. Don't mock--my Utah ward is not all white and samey. Finally, I did ask for input. No problem with info-dumpiness. :)

Michele said...

Great blog and interesting comments :-)
This is a common problem...
For me I really think it is the way i was raised- I think my parents and grandparents knew people who always seemed to be taking advantage of others- expecting that if they were Christian they would help them out regardless and these people would not be so kind to others around them. I think we might all know someone like that from some point in our life- but I think it caused my family to swing the pendulum the opposite way- not wanting to be burden to anyone, thus being independent and self-sufficient, thus being unaccepting of service, thus extending it to having a difficult time accepting gifts although they do still give plenty and don't expect anything in return. I think they think that's what we are supposed to do expecting and accepting get confused. I am learning all the time though- friendships are better made when it goes both ways- giving and receiving.
And yeah, I cracked a little smile that they carefully chose gifts to keep their children entertained over the holidays & the gift was a barometer. ;-)