Posts Tagged ‘Mutuality’

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:

Receiving Others as Gifts: Mutuality in Giving & Receiving


This is the first post in my new series about “Receiving Others as Gifts.” For background to this series, please read the introduction from last week: Introducing a New Series on Receiving Others as Gifts. To see all of my blog posts related to this subject, check out the tag: Others as Gifts.

I love the Kenneth Bailey video on footwashing that I posted back in November. I love everything about that video really. But most especially meaningful to me was how he made the case for how radical footwashing is and then how he lifted out the verse about how we ought to wash one anothers’ feet!

Bailey talked about the power dynamics at play when service is rendered. The idea was that service as we are called to is often from a position of power–the one has something the other needs–the giver is the one with the power.

Bailey rightly points out the danger of using service as a power play.

The way to guard against the power dynamics getting out of hand , then, is to wash one anothers’ feet–for each one to take turns both giving service to and receiving service from one another.

When it comes to receiving others as gifts, I think this idea of mutual giving & receiving is really important. The temptation to always be the one giving is great in our busy world.

We don’t want someone else to be put out. And we certainly don’t want to feel like we owe someone for some service they’ve rendered!

No, we’d rather be the ones doing the giving, doing the serving, doing that thing that puts someone else in our debt. Oh, of course, we don’t expect them to repay us–but that only heightens the sense of indebtedness that the one served may feel.

The most profound act of service we can render is to receive service from another, to lay down our need to be large and in charge and to humble ourselves enough to allow another to be or do for us something that we cannot do or be on our own.

Admitting that we can’t be all things to all people is often scary. To own our limitations and our neediness is not comfortable or automatic. It is a deliberate choice to drop our sense of superiority, to drop our self-centeredness, and to allow someone else to be greater or more central to us than we’d like.

Another feature of that Bailey video mentioned above is he calls attention to the bond that is formed when service is given and received. The two parties are brought into closer relationship by the service given and received.

We can choose to decline the service offered to us–I mean, we may not always need what is offered at exactly the time and place it is being offered. But to decline the service of others is to distance ourselves from those offering it.

We may have our reasons to decline, but it is wise to be aware of the cost. If we continually deny others the opportunity to serve us we may find ourselves in total isolation.

We may end up so far removed from others as to have no meaningful, sustaining community on which to rely when we eventually realize that we need it.

Plus, if we allow ourselves to become isolated by refusing to be served, then we’ll have no one left who needs or relies on us! Our own best service will be useless if we have no one close enough to us to receive what we have to offer.

I’m convinced that we need each other in this life. We need the gifts and service of others and they need ours too. This mutual giving and receiving is part of God’s original intent for us and Jesus affirms it.

May we be blessed by and be a blessing to others through our serving one another.


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

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