Last month, I stopped into the Hallmark Visitor Center in Kansas City, Missouri, on the way home from a road trip. As I was walking through the self-guided tour, I came across one exhibit displaying an array of resin crowns decorated by employees to celebrate the company’s 100th birthday in 2010. Employees were challenged to design onto or using a crown however they wished.  

The variety of these artists’ imaginations was amazing to see, as one crown had glitz and glam, while another was like a swimming pool having something diving into it. One crown that particularly stuck out to me was from the Netherlands and had prints of familiar Hallmark icons surrounding the outside. Interspersed between a Hallmark bear, one of the “Hoops and Yoyo” characters, along with other icons, were each of these three statements: “the pleasure of giving,” “the joy of sharing,” and “the skill of receiving.”

The skill of receiving. Hmm.

This was an interesting concept that I wanted to further explore, and I invite you to consider its value along with me.

Have you ever given someone a compliment, and he or she was quick to respond with why your compliment was a mistake? You might have said, “I love your jacket!” and the recipient replied, “Oh, this old thing?” Another time you encouraged someone with “Your hair looks great today!” and she responded, “Aw, thanks,” then added, “I like your shoes.”

In regards to literal gifts, you might have remembered your coworker’s birthday and been excited to purposefully pick out a card, buy jewelry, and have a piece of chocolate attached to the gift box. As you walked into her office with the surprise, her first statement was “You didn’t have to get me a present!” She might also have added with embarrassment, “I didn’t get you anything for your birthday!”

Another day while you were standing in line at a restaurant to have lunch with a friend, she said her order, you said yours, and you pulled out your credit card to happily pay for both meals. She fought you at first, then relented as you placed your card in the hand of the cashier. The friend said thank you and promised to pay next time.

Each and every day, somewhere, and in some way, gifts of words and items are given. Sometimes they are anticipated like when when celebrating an achievement, a birthday, or a bridal shower. Other times, seasons of giving, such as Christmas, promote expected or surprise gifts to be exchanged. Yet, there are many times when people simply give as an expression of love or encouragement towards another person.  

If giving and receiving is part of life, might it be true that there is, indeed, a skill to doing both well?

To answer that question, particularly the concept of receiving, let us first consider what a gift actually is.  

The Merriam-Webster website defines a “gift” in this way: “something voluntarily transferred by one person to another without compensation.”

It also defines “voluntary” as something being “done or given because you want to and not because you are forced to : done or given by choice.”

The act of giving has these three factors involved: a giver, a gift, and a recipient. The giver gives something to someone else, without expectation of payment in return, and is done so completely at the will and initiation of the giver. Why? Simply because the giver wanted to.

A gift, therefore, has nothing to do with whether or not the recipient deserved it, asked for it, or even desired it. The irony is that while the gift itself is for the recipient, it’s the giver who is the hero of the story, for he originated the idea and executed the act.

I love how Joyce Meyers described in her blog post, “How to Receive What You Need From God,” a situation where she gave gifts to children. The kids did not respond to her gifts with any excuses, rejections, or negative comments. Instead, they received from her freely and with joy. She points out that their response is how we, too, should respond to God’s gifts of love, grace, forgiveness, and more.

She highlights the verse: John 16:24 which says, “…Ask and keep on asking and you will receive, so that your joy may be full and complete.”

God desires that we receive, so that we may have full and complete joy.

The next time someone gives a gift—whether a compliment or a present, may we respect their efforts bless us, honor their gesture of love, and receive their blessing with a heart of gratitude.

Might it be that the skill of receiving begins with a humble heart and an outward focus.