Many years ago I tried to buy lunch for a friend, and she would not let me. It was no big deal but it was sort of a letdown on my part, and I remember feeling rather disappointed. I had been hyped up to treat her.
The next day I declined to let another friend buy my lunch, and the hangdog expression on her face had to be exactly how I had looked only the day before, when I had been refused. I felt terrible.
This is when I began to understand that taking, can often be giving.
I know that I am happy when I do something nice for a friend, yet here I was refusing people. I love paying for our ice cream or getting the movie tickets, yet I rarely let anyone do so for me. Why did I make it so hard for people to give me things?
The answer is because I had too much pride. Pride is a good thing in measured amounts, preferably tempered with a bit of humility. We should always be proud of the core things that makeup who we are. But pride can get out of hand sometimes, and I was hard to help out for a lot of years. I just would not take the offers, because I can do it myself.
Of course I can do it myself. But I had pushed the idea to the point that I had trouble accepting gifts or kindnesses, even though I often give them out. I had to learn how to knock down that particular wall and start making my friends and family happy - by letting them give me things. It seems like such an odd thing to say, to be honest. I am pretty sure that it works, however.
Let me highlight a couple of things. I am highly alert to weirdness and bribery attempts, and so the only people I accept gifts and favors from are pretty much the same people I would trust with my children and my secrets. I am not advocating trolling for free lunches. There are people in our lives who truly want to do something nice for us once in a while, and that is the circle that I'm talking about here.
It still feels awkward when people do nice things for me, so it goes best when I know them well. Surprises are the most awkward because I never expect anything from anyone, ever, so my response is usually slow and short. I am easy to surprise because I honestly never expect one coming. The best thing about learning to accept favors is learning that there is no keeping of score cards or notes with people that you truly care about; everybody takes care of everybody.
I will continue to make an effort to politely take care of my own expenses, because that is how I was raised and that is how I plan. But if someone is dead-set on doing something for me, I have learned to let them. People get a real bang out of doing nice stuff for their friends. We all know that, because we have all done it and gotten that same kick.
Some people might think it would be easy to get greedy this way. I suppose this could be true, but I do not think I'm much in danger. I think that is where my pride kicks back in and will not allow me to accept too much, even though the kindness is always appreciated. I make my own way.
Shortly after I realized that taking can be giving, I was invited to lunch again. This time when my friend offered to buy I made a counter-offer to take care of myself, and when my friend insisted on paying, I let her. She was tickled pink and I saw that by taking her kindness, I had given her happiness.
To my friends who pick up lunch, bring me secondhand clothes for my kids, help me out with childcare in the summer, send me funny cards inside care packages in the mail, or surprise me with fair tickets...thank you. If I'm ever weird about it I hope you can understand it is because I am weird and have funny issues with people going out of their way for me, but I do appreciate it.