What It Takes to Let Love In
We’re taught that giving is superior to receiving. Indeed, the art of giving is a helpful corrective to human narcissism. Seeing what others need to be happy requires empathy and kindness.
But receiving is an equally noble endeavor. We may strive to love, but to what extent to we allow ourselves to be loved? When someone extends their attention and caring toward us, how deeply do we let it in? Can we allow ourselves to be nourished by another’s kindness? Receiving deeply provides needed nutrients for our soul, while also honoring the giver–making them feel that they’ve made a difference in our life.
Being mindful of the following might deepen your capacity to receive, thereby bringing greater fulfillment to your life:
Get Out of Your Head and Be Relaxed in Your Body
When someone does us a favor or compliments us, we might feel awkward or shy, or not know how to respond. We might think we’re required to reciprocate. We might wonder:
Must I now do them a favor or compliment them?
Are they expecting something in return?
Do I really deserve this kindness?
Such thoughts keep us imprisoned in our head. Negative self-talk keeps us depressed, disconnected, and unhappy.
The next time someone gives something to you, see if you can take a deep breath and let it be. Relax! Don’t trouble yourself by trying to figure it all out. Don’t overthink it. Just let it in!
The trick is to get out of your head and stay in your body. How do you feel in your stomach and chest to be gifted with such kindness? If thoughts are swirling, simply notice them and set them aside.
Don’t Question Whether You Deserve It
Sometimes we don’t absorb good stuff because we think we don’t deserve it. We might think, “If they really knew me, they wouldn’t say this.” Or, “I haven’t done much for them, so I don’t deserve this favor!” It’s easy to drive ourselves nuts with endless considerations. Lost in the folds of our thought process, the beauty of the gift slips out of our hands. And the giver might notice our distraction and not feel appreciated for what they’ve done for us.
We can drive ourselves crazy pondering whether we deserve something. Who’s to say whether we do or don’t? Does it really matter? It’s unlikely that the giver has evaluated whether we deserved it, so why should we? Perhaps it was a spontaneous act of kindness that felt good to the giver. Questioning it diminishes the power of the offering.
An important part of self-worth is to validate that it’s OK to receive things. Being human means having needs and wants, which includes being valued and appreciated. No doubt, we have ample flaws and limitations, but when we’re given a gift is not the time to ponder our flaws. Actually, one of our flaws may be that we complain that nobody cares about us despite evidence to the contrary. We’re not skilled at the art of receiving good stuff when it comes our way.
When someone gives you something, it’s a good time to let your mind be quiet and just focus on receiving.
Allow Yourself to Be Vulnerable
We’re firmly in control when we give, but not when we receive. Being the recipient of a kind word or deed can trigger a sense of vulnerability. Receiving requires the strength to be vulnerable.
When a tender moment arises during a conversation — perhaps a look of compassion as we talk about a parent’s illness — can we let in their tender caring? Or do we quickly look away due to shame or embarrassment? How often do we voice our struggles, hoping to find a kind and receptive ear, and then when someone offers a kindhearted response, we keep talking over it?
Allowing ourselves to slow down and welcome a tender vulnerability can be very connecting — a salve for our isolation. Taking a moment to pause or show a tear can be a gift to the listener. It can signal in ways that are deeper than words that their caring has touched our heart and helped us take a small step toward healing.
Look for opportunities to let in love and kindness when it comes your way. It might be as simple as someone holding open a door for you, or a genuine interest in hearing about something that’s troubling you, or a warm hug. As you practice being a sponge, you may allow more joy into your life. And as your emotional tank gets filled, you’ll have more to offer others.
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John Amodeo, Ph.D., MFT, is author of the award-winning book about relationships as a spiritual path, Dancing with Fire: A Mindful Way to Loving Relationships(link is external). His other books include The Authentic Heart(link is external) and Love & Betrayal(link is external). He has been a licensed marriage and family therapist for 35 years in the San Francisco Bay area and has conducted workshops internationally. www.johnamodeo.com(link is external)