Ask for more this Christmas

That John Lewis ad

Have you seen this year’s John Lewis Christmas ad? Who wouldn’t love to have children that prefer giving presents to receiving them?

A recent survey showed that people who gave money away were considerably happier than those who spent it on themselves. Giving thoughtful gifts gives us pleasure because we imagine the joy they will bring to others. It makes us feel effective, useful and generous.

Even Jesus said that it is more blessed to give than to receive. So point made then? We should all give lots this Christmas time. Well not exactly.

If giving is so good for you, then why are we hogging it? Perhaps this Christmas we could allow our loved ones the joy of being givers, by becoming good receivers ourselves.

Stiff upper lips

Unfortunately, we Brits are notoriously rubbish receivers. We find it hard to accept anything – compliments, gifts, help etc. Stiff upper lip and all that.

We mistakenly believe that asking for help makes us look weak, and that to be respected or seen as caring we need to give tirelessly.

Of course the bible entreats us to give expecting nothing in return, but it also encourages us to be cheerful givers. A sour-faced martyr slaving away resentfully over Christmas dinner, whilst everyone else sprawls on the sofa, benefits no-one. I’d rather have a microwave lasagne and a happy atmosphere.

But is it morally wrong to step back sometimes and be a receiver?

Expensive perfume

Jesus was a receiver. Clearly, this didn’t stop him giving. He dedicated his ministry to teaching, healing and ultimately dying for other people. But he understood acutely the need to allow others to give.

When a woman came and poured a bottle of expensive perfume over him, Jesus was the only person who didn’t try to stop or rebuke her. In fact he said, “She has done a beautiful thing”. The woman’s heart must have leapt as she heard those affirming words.

Most of us would have told her not to be silly, “Put that perfume away”. The impact of the insightful gift would have been lost.

Give the gift of giving

Being a good receiver takes practice.

This Christmas it could mean asking for or accepting help from guests, most of whom will be more than pleased to be asked to contribute. Whether it’s bringing a drink, helping to cook or fixing the radiator for you. People feel uneasy and indebted if they aren’t allowed to give.

When someone says how good you look or how well you’ve cooked, practise smiling and saying a simple, honest thank you, even if you think you look fat and can’t cook. And when you receive a gift let them know how much you appreciate the thought that has gone into it.

Being a skilled receiver is not about being greedy or demanding. It’s about balance, and everyone benefits.

So demonstrate your love this Christmas as never before. Become a gracious receiver and allow those around you to experience the unparalleled joy of giving.