Receiving Others as Gifts: Remembering Their Giftliness (Not Taking People for Granted)



This is the third in my series about “Receiving Others as Gifts.” <– Click the series title to see all posts in the series.

When I first wrote here about the topic of receiving others as gifts I mentioned the potential of the gift analogy breaking down into thinking of others as objects. When we push the gift analogy too far and reduce people to “things” we run the risk of taking other people for granted.

I felt this difficulty with the gift analogy as I wrote the previous two entries as I wrote about the value of others. I never want it to sound like I’m urging us to commodify other people in our lives. People are not objects and we should never treat them as “things” to which we are entitled.

I’d like to take some space here to address pitfalls to avoid in how we think of the “giftliness” of others as it relates to receiving their service and companionship.

Are You Being Served?
In my first post of this series I made the case that we often have trouble receiving service from others—and I stand by that analysis—but there is also another tendency that can threaten our relationships with others. Namely, we run the risk of allowing others to do all the heavy lifting for us.

I won’t speak for anyone else, but I know that for me there is a real danger to sit back and rather enjoy being served—selfishly allowing others to do for me what I could easily do for myself. And I can justify it, you know, just to give the other person the joy of serving!

But when we turn the idea of receiving service into asking or allowing someone else do our every bidding, then we have crossed the line. At that point we are no longer honoring the gift that they are to us, we are using them in the worst sense of the term.

Look Who’s Talking
In last week’s post about companionship I talked about how others can help us through difficult times and how they can encourage our best. The nagging thought came to me that this ran the risk of thinking of relationships in terms of just what we can get out of it.

Again, not speaking for anyone else, but for me personally, I know that I like to talk, I like to be heard. If someone I truly trust is especially willing to listen I am especially willing to pour my heart out. Later, when I recognize it, I feel embarrassed if I didn’t inquire much about the other person or if I talked considerably more than I listened.

We hurt relationships when we only think of our companions in terms of what their support means for us. We miss the sheer giftliness of other people when we use up all our time with them for our own needs.

All Good Gifts
When gifts are so plentiful as are our fellow servants and companions along life’s way, it can take special mindfulness to continue to hold others in high regard. If we’re not careful, we too easily go the way of the child in anticipation of a birthday who forgets manners in anticipation of the presents he expects.

And so, for all I have said so far and will continue to say about the gift that others are, as with all good gifts we do well not to take them for granted.

Read all the posts in the Receiving Others as Gifts series:

One response to this post.

  1. It’s impossible to be free people without seeing each other as gifts.

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