EMBRACING A LESS KNOWN VIRTUE – How to Receive with Gratitude

EMBRACING A LESS KNOWN VIRTUE – How to Receive with Gratitude

On a beautiful sunny afternoon in Vancouver, I was riding my bike to the bus station. I was on my way to catch a bus that would transport me and my bike to the ferry terminal. I had just spent the weekend with good friends and was happy about the unexpected warm weather.

As I stopped at a red traffic light a man, who looked like a homeless person, walked towards me with a bunch of daffodils in his hand. I guess he had picked them in a nearby park. As he came closer, he extended his hand with the bouquet towards me, smiled a toothless smile and walked on. I only had a moment to receive the flowers and express my gratitude. I was touched by the unexpected act of kindness, especially coming from someone who seemed to possess so little.

As I sat on the bus, the daffodils in my hand, another passenger struck up a conversation with me. I shared how I received the flowers and that I wanted to enjoy them as much as I could while they lasted. She taught me a trick to revive flowers: You fully submerge them in water and let them soak over night. I was filled with gratitude and eager to follow her advice.

When I arrived at my home in Victoria several hours later, I soaked the wilted daffodils in my sink. The next morning they had indeed perked up and lasted for a few more days in a vase on my table.

my friend was most touched by the joy and gratitude I received from these small acts of kindness

My friend was most touched by the joy and gratitude I received from these small acts of kindness.

I was still filled with gratitude and joy when I shared my recent experience with a friend.

To my surprise, my friend was most touched by the joy and gratitude I received from these small acts of kindness. Up to that point, I had not given this aspect of my story much thought. I simply couldn’t have imagined another way to respond. However, I recognize now that without me receiving these gifts, the whole experience would have been meaningless.

Unfortunately there is a widespread myth that giving is nobler than receiving. For many people this makes receiving difficult. However, giving and receiving really are equal partners. If you have ever given a gift, a compliment or an act of kindness that was not well received, you know what I am talking about. It takes the joy out of giving. As Veronique Vienne put it aptly, “receiving requires as much generosity as giving.” I encourage you to stretch your receiving-muscle more often.

Three keys to receiving generously and with gratitude:

  1. Notice your urge to reciprocate or deflect when you have been given something (a compliment, a gift, an act of kindness, a smile).
  2. Instead of following your urge, take a moment to fully receive the gift. Allow yourself to feel the joy and gratitude.
  3. Then take a moment to notice the positive impact your joy has on the giver. Receiving fully is a gift in itself.

Every day we have countless opportunities to receive kindness from the people around us with gratitude. It makes the world of a difference when you do!

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Julia James

Julia James is a certified life coach and award-winning author of the book, The Mini-Retreat Solution. With over ten years experience coaching people through positive career transformations, Julia is passionate about helping people connect with their true calling.


  1. Melanie Reply

    What a fabulous lesson in receiving! I often give people compliments … most of them just brush the complement off. It is so wonderful when someone just says “Thank you!”

    Thank you for this great reminder Julia!

    • Julia Reply

      Thank you so much for sharing your personal experience, Melanie!
      Yes, it makes all the difference when you receive compliments with an open heart and a simply “Thank you!”.
      Julia 🙂

  2. Lena Reply

    I think the inability to receive a compliment or gift is often grounded in
    a deep-seated belief that we don’t deserve it. This results in feelings of
    unease or fear of being indebted to the giver.

    • Julia Reply

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Lena!
      I agree with you completely. When I feel unable to receive something wholeheartedly, I usually inquire within myself as to what is stopping me. I always discover an old belief at the root of it, that keeps me from receiving freely.

      Awareness of these internal barriers in itself is a great gift. Once I am aware of the self-limiting belief that is stopping me from receiving certain gifts freely, I come to a place of choice. Do I want to hang on to this old belief or do I want to consider alternatives? Often I need to look at many possible perspectives, so that I can choose a fresh perspective that is more supportive.

      A few different perspectives, I like to explore are:
      – my best friend’s perspective (often we are more generous towards our friends than towards ourselves)
      – my older, wiser self’s perspective (my higher self, higher knowing or intuition)
      – the eagle perspective, looking at the broader picture from up above

      I hope these ideas help you and other readers use your hesitation towards receiving as an opportunity to explore what’s stopping you and then move beyond these self-imposed barriers.

      It’s a lot of fun when you do!

      Julia 🙂

  3. Marie Laure Reply

    I had just been reflecting on this before your newsletter, during a little hike in the country with a friend, to whom I actually spoke about you at some point in the conversation.

    My realisation was that often, we have expectations from others and when these are not fulfilled, we generate a whole range of negative emotions, from mild to strong, depending on different factors such as stress level, general level of contentment or dissatisfaction, strength of the emotional charge given to the expectation, etc…

    By expecting what “we” want instead of receiving what is being offered to us, we can end up missing who people really are, the gifts they give by being who they are. So just like trees give their fruit to who is doing the picking up (for example my friend goes in the forests to harvest chesnuts where I don’t), really, it looks like the giving lies in the receiving of what is under our eyes, and yet not always appreciated as such when we’re busy looking elsewhere or wanting something else.

    So there was going my thinking and it resonnates nicely with yours!

    • Julia Reply

      Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, Marie-Laure!
      So true, it takes awareness and a willingness to look to appreciate the gifts presented to us every day.
      I agree, when we get locked into expectations it blinds our awareness. I like using the metaphor of our eye’s gaze. When we focus our gaze on a specific object, we don’t see other things in the room, when we allow our gaze to soften, we begin to perceive more of our environment. It is good to know that whenever we catch ourselves being hooked into a specific expectation, we can simply widen our perspective, by softening our gaze.
      Julia 🙂

  4. Lena Reply

    Thank you, Marie-Laure and Julia,

    The Spark on this subject has already inspired some thoughts I will let flow into my next body-alignment workshop (see my comment above). Now Mare-Laure’s comment inspired some more! It is so true! When we manage to let go both, expectations as to what we want and feelings of not being worth receiving, it leads to complete abundance in our lives. We can say thank you from our hearts. I invite everybody to practice thanksgiving from this perspective this year!



    • Julia Reply

      Thank you Lena!
      I am so glad to hear that you found inspiration both in the original story as well as the discussion! This is my highest intention with my blog, so I am thrilled to see the fruits of my intentions reflected through your comments. I am glad to know that the inspiration you received from reading and discussing on my blog will flow into your body-alignment work and will thereby inspire more people. This is true abundance!
      With gratitude and love,
      Julia 🙂

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