How We Receive Affects How We Give
By Kristen Seeber
Women’s Fund of Smith County

 My sisters and I like to tease our mother about how she always has to be the giver. She much prefers giving over receiving. She delights in watching everyone else open their presents at Christmas, while a pile sits at her feet unopened. Similarly, she will take a compliment given her and turn it back around, “Oh, I’m not as pretty as you are handsome.”

Sometimes I find myself exhibiting that same behavior, pushing aside someone’s offering out of false modesty or because the attention makes me feel uncomfortable, unworthy. Even when we’re expressing gratitude, we often haven’t fully received, taken in and assimilated the gift we’ve been given. True receiving requires sensitivity, awareness and recognition.

Whether it is a genuine service, a gesture of goodwill or a teachable moment, the value of the gift and the value of the giver’s intention cannot be underestimated. Understanding that value is expressed when the receiver has a sense of deserving the gift – that it is neither too much nor too little. The origin of the word “receive” is from the Latin word recipere, meaning “take back” and implies that what we receive is already ours. It completes something within us.

Practicing the art of accepting can help us live and give with more meaning. The philanthropic experience involves both the giver and the receiver. The experience is diminished, though, when the gift is dismissed. If what is given is not fully received, there is no true exchange. Without a receptive student, a teacher cannot impart knowledge. Friends cannot share real companionship, unless both are present for its blessings. A gift is essentially fruitless, when it is not wholly received.

Mindfulness has many rewards. It can deepen our relationships and bolster our mental, physical and emotional well-being. It can lead us to realize how much we have for which to be grateful. Cultivating the discipline of giving well and receiving well can renew our appreciation for all that is good around us and make us more sensitive to the needs of others.

To quote T.S. Eliot, “For last year’s words belong to last year’s language and next year’s words await another voice.” A new year is upon us and, with it, new opportunities to give – and to receive. Listening to both of those voices will enrich the days ahead.

Kristen Seeber serves as president of the Women’s Fund of Smith County which celebrates its tenth anniversary in 2017. The mission of this collective giving circle is to leverage the philanthropic capacity of women as a catalyst for positive change. The Women’s Fund welcomes new members who are interested in learning more about meaningful giving and receiving. Visit for details about membership opportunities, events and outreach.