Posts Tagged ‘Companionship’

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

Giftliness

 

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:

Receiving Others as Gifts: Companionship Over the Long Haul

Companionship

This is the second post in my series on “Receiving Others as Gifts.” Last week I dealt with the give and take of receiving service from one another–and in particular the service of accepting service. This week I’m turning to a more subtle way in which we are gifts to one another and that is through the simple act of companionship. To read all of my posts related to this subject, please click to browse the entries under the tag, Others as Gifts.

Companionship is a hard thing to quantify and all too easy to underestimate. With service we may tend toward grandiosity and may need to learn to accept a little help from others (for more on this, see the previous post, Receiving Others as Gifts: Mutuality in Giving & Receiving). But companionship is so subtle that we don’t always recognize the value of it.

As with service, companionship goes both ways. Just as the previous post dealt with the mutuality of service, that same mutuality applies in the subject of companionship. We both give and receive the companionship of one another.

I think the best way I can talk about companionship is to relate it to my word for 2014, which is “present.” I’ve shared before about some of the challenges I’ve had with depression and anxiety as well as my tendency toward introversion–all of which make it take effort to to show up and be present with other people.

What has been remarkable to me are the times when I get props for doing just that and I find that just by showing up I can be a blessing to others. I don’t always understand how that can be, but somehow people are glad that I’m there!

When I think about it though, I know that when I go to a committee meeting and a member is missing, it’s just not the same. And when I teach a class and a student is absent, the dynamic is different.

We matter to each other–just by showing up and being ourselves! Apart from any particular thing that we do, we are immeasurably valuable.

I’m fond of the observation I once heard that we are human beings, not human doings. We can be a blessing to one another just by being together along life’s way.

Companionship over the long haul is so important. Life has so many ups and downs and it is so great to have people with us through it all in good times and bad times (cue Dion Warwick & Friends).

Having people with us makes the ups that much more joyous and the downs that much more bearable. Our companions along life’s way often help to bring out our brightest and best. In some cases they may even bolster us and keep us from sinking as low as we might otherwise.

Again, companionship isn’t something we can quantify and it’s not about what we do. It is about being ourselves and being with one another.

It is easy to overlook the value of those who are there for us and unfortunately sometimes we don’t realize it until they’re not there. So, this is my call to take stock of the gift that we are to each other just by showing up in each others’ lives.

 

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