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When Your Gift Is Not Properly Received

[Please note: ACIM passages quoted in this article reference the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP) Edition.]

Discussion: When we give a gift to someone, whether it’s a tangible gift, or is the gift of our time, the gift of help, the gift of love, aren’t we a little worried? What are we generally worried about?

Anxiety around gift-giving is a universal experience. We wonder if our gift is going to be well-received. We wonder if it will be used in the way we intended. We worry that it will be rejected, or discarded, or misused. This experience may be mild or non-existent when we are giving more trivial gifts, but it intensifies when one or both of two things are present: First, when we are heavily invested in the gift, such as when the gift is precious to us, when we have big hopes for its reception or impact, or when we are giving our love, our deepest feelings. Second, when the gift somehow challenges the other person’s ego, when it asks that person to confront something within themselves. This is often true when we are giving some kind of help, for if the source of people’s problems is their own ego, then real help will often ask them, overtly or covertly, to face their ego, something that few want to do. Thus, when we are heavily invested in the gift, and when the gift challenges the recipient’s ego, our anxiety-level goes up. We start really worrying about whether or not the gift will be well-received.

The class seemed to have difficulty at first identifying with this anxiety around gift-giving. People talked about the need to give gifts without strings attached. However, as the discussion went on, and we talked about various kinds of gifts, the pervasiveness of this anxiety became clear. Several people shared stories of gifts they had given that had been very important to them, yet which were tossed aside once received. One person, a musician, shared about giving someone an instrument that she’d had from her youth and that held great personal meaning for her, only to discover that the other person assumed she was being given a castoff.

One way to address this anxiety is the ancient notion of giving up attachment to the fruits of your actions. You just perform the action and have no attachment to what results from it. The Course in a certain sense agrees with this, but it takes a slightly different tack. This subject is addressed in the Course in two important sections in the Manual for Teachers (Sections 6 and 7: “Is Healing Certain?” and “Should Healing Be Repeated?”). Both of these sections address the following situation: a teacher of God has performed a healing on someone who is ill, and that person’s symptoms have not gone away. At this point, the healer is probably thinking, “I gave a pure gift of healing and this person was apparently blocked to receiving it. They didn’t receive my gift.”

From Manual, Section 6: “Is Healing Certain?”

p2. Healing will always stand aside when it would be seen as threat. The instant it is welcome it is there. Where healing has been given it will be received. And what is time before the gifts of God? We have referred many times in the text to the storehouse of treasures laid up equally for the giver and the receiver of God’s gifts. Not one is lost, for they can but increase. No teacher of God should feel disappointed if he has offered healing and it does not appear to have been received. It is not up to him to judge when his gift should be accepted. Let him be certain it has been received, and trust that it will be accepted when it is recognized as a blessing and not a curse.

According to this paragraph, if you have given healing, it has been received. You can “be certain it has been received.” However, then we are told that healing will “stand aside when it would be seen as threat.” It is also implied that there may be a time-lag between the giving and the receiving: “And what is time before the gifts of God?” How do we reconcile all of this? For me, the reconciliation is in the final line: “Let him be certain it has been received, and trust that it will be accepted when it is recognized as a blessing and not a curse.” The gift has been received, and will be accepted when the receiver is ready.

This implies a two-part view of the recipient. On the conscious level, he may be afraid of the gift and therefore may not accept it. But on a deeper level, somewhere below consciousness, he has received the gift. This seems to be the significance of the comment about the storehouse of treasures, in the middle of the paragraph. This is usually called the treasure house or treasury in the Course, and it is the place within the mind of the Sonship where all miracles are stored, waiting to be claimed by their recipients.

So the picture is this: When you give a true gift, it is received, deep within the recipient’s mind. There, it is laid in the treasure house, waiting for his acceptance. You can be certain, therefore, that it has been received. However, the person may not have accepted it into his conscious experience yet. If this is so, it is because he sees the gift as a threat, as a curse, rather than a blessing. However, the time will come when this will change. Then, he will go to that inner storehouse and claim the gift and accept it into his consciousness. Your job is to be certain the reception has occurred, and trust that the acceptance will occur.

This distinction between “received” and “accepted” is found elsewhere in the Course:

It is possible that His answer will not be heard. It is impossible, however, that it will be lost. There are many answers you have already received but have not yet heard. I assure you that they are waiting for you. (T-9.II.3:4-7)

Here, the gifts are answers, answers that you have already received but have not yet heard. It’s the same idea as already received and not yet accepted. The idea is also found in Lesson 124, where we are asked to practice for a full half hour, and then told this:

Your benefit will not be less if you believe that nothing happens. You may not be ready to accept the gain today. Yet sometime, somewhere, it will come to you, nor will you fail to recognize it when it dawns with certainty upon your mind. (W-pI.124.9:1-3)

Let’s return now to “Is Healing Certain?”

p3. It is not the function of God’s teachers to evaluate the outcome of their gifts. It is merely their function to give them. Once they have done that they have also given the outcome, for that is part of the gift.

The first sentence reminds us of the traditional idea that we shouldn’t be attached to the outcome of our gifts, we should just give. But then the third sentence introduces a new idea: When you have given the gift, you have also given the outcome, “for that is part of the gift.” This is different than the traditional notion of releasing attachment to the outcome. There, you cast your gift upon the waters, and whatever happens to it is none of your business.

Here, however, there is no gap between gift and outcome. We think of the gift and the outcome—how the gift is received—as quite independent of each other. It can be a wonderful, loving gift, and yet not well-received. This independence of gift and outcome is the whole source of our anxiety around gift-giving. Yet the Course is saying that this independence is not there. The outcome—the gift’s reception—is actually contained in the gift itself. It is part of the gift. Therefore, the reception is actually in the hands of the giver, not the receiver. If you give a true gift, it will be truly received, for as you give it, you are also giving its outcome.

We see this idea earlier in the Course, that when the gift is truly given, it will be truly received:

What God has given you is truly given, and will be truly received. For God’s gifts have no reality apart from your receiving them. Your receiving completes His giving. You will receive because it is His Will to give. (T-16.VII.8:1-4)

Freedom is offered them but they have not accepted it, and what is offered must also be received, to be truly given. (T-19.IV(B).17:2)

And he will give it truly, for it will be both offered and received. (T-19.IV(D).15:4)

Without going into detail about each passage, notice that each one talks about a gift being truly given, and each one says that a truly given gift will also be received. Can we accept this connection, that when we truly give, our gift will be truly received? If we can, this will dispel all our anxiety about the reception of our gifts.

p3 cont. No one can give if he is concerned with the result of giving. That is a limitation on the giving itself, and neither the giver nor the receiver would have the gift. Trust is an essential part of giving; in fact, it is the part that makes sharing possible, the part that guarantees the giver will not lose, but only gain. Who gives a gift and then remains with it, to be sure it is used as the giver deems appropriate? Such is not giving but imprisoning.

Here we see most clearly the relationship between the traditional “give up attachment to results” and the Course’s notion of trusting in the outcome. The Course’s teaching amounts to this: You can give up concern about the outcome because you trust in the outcome. This is very similar to the discussion we had on patience a couple of weeks ago, where we saw that you can afford to wait without anxiety because you are certain of the outcome.

Notice that the word “trust” has cropped up twice now. What do you think we are trusting? Obviously, we are trusting in the outcome, but this also means that we are trusting in our brothers. This is because the outcome is the other person truly receiving the gift. Therefore, you can’t trust the outcome without trusting the other person. And this is the element that I think the more traditional interpretation leaves out. It says “I just give because it is my nature to give, and I release all concern about my gifts because I can’t know what will happen to them.” This is great, as far as it goes, but it doesn’t take the final, crucial step: “I release all concern because I know I can trust the other person to receive it when the time is right.”

It is so much easier for us to say “I’ll do my part, I’ll do the right thing, but I can’t count on my brother to do the right thing.” I see this all the time among spiritual students. “I’m willing to join, but how can I count on the other person to be willing as well?” Yet don’t these perspectives imply the very lack of love we are trying to overcome on the spiritual path? Wouldn’t it be better to day, “I’ll do my part, and I trust that my brother will do his. It’s only a matter of time. And what is time before the gifts of God.”

p4. It is the relinquishing of all concern about the gift that makes it truly given. And it is trust that makes true giving possible. Healing is the change of mind that the Holy Spirit in the patient’s mind is seeking for him. And it is the Holy Spirit in the mind of the giver Who gives the gift to him. How can it be lost ? How can it be ineffectual? How can it be wasted? God’s treasure house can never be empty. And if one gift is missing, it would not be full. Yet is its fullness guaranteed by God. What concern, then, can a teacher of God have about what becomes of his gifts? Given by God to God, who in this holy exchange can receive less than everything?

Here we see the emphasis on trust again. Trust in the other person’s reception of the gift is crucial. That’s what makes true giving possible. After that point is made, the paragraph again tries to erase the independence of giving and receiving. It says that the gift is what the Holy Spirit in the mind of the receiver is seeking. “And it is the Holy Spirit in the mind of the giver Who gives the gift to him.” So the giver and the receiver are both the Holy Spirit. Here is another way of undoing the independence of giving and receiving—the same One is doing both! It is easy to see how a gift can be fumbled when you see it as handed off by one person to another person. The two people are different. They have different wills. They could easily get their signals crossed. The timing could be off. Their wishes and desires could be in conflict. However, if the giver is also the receiver, how could the gift possibly be fumbled? “How can it be lost ? How can it be ineffectual? How can it be wasted?” Every gift goes into God’s treasure house, and nothing is ever lost in this storage unit. It is safer than Fort Knox So why be concerned about your gifts? The Holy Spirit Himself is storing them in His treasure house.

From Manual, Section 7: “Should Healing Be Repeated?”

The next section continues this same theme of concern about the outcome of our gifts. This section, however, approaches the subject from a slightly different tack. The last section said that we have good reason to let go of our concern. This one now takes direct aim at the concern itself, and does so in a rather confrontive way.

p1. For a teacher of God to remain concerned about the result of healing is to limit the healing. It is now the teacher of God himself whose mind needs to be healed….He is now the patient, and he must so regard himself. He has made a mistake, and must be willing to change his mind about it. He lacked the trust that makes for giving truly, and so he has not received the benefit of his gift.

If you have given a true gift and are still concerned about its outcome (about the other person receiving it properly), then you have now become the patient, and that is how you must regard yourself. You must seek healing for your mind, for your lack of trust.

p2. Now the teacher of God has only one course to follow. He must use his reason to tell himself that he has given the problem to One Who cannot fail, and must recognize that his own uncertainty is not love but fear, and therefore hate. His position has thus become untenable, for he is offering hate to one to whom he offered love. This is impossible. Having offered love, only love can be received.

This paragraph tells us how to go about seeking the healing of our own mind, now that we are the patient. How do we do it? We have to reason with ourselves. We have to use our reason to tell ourselves that the gift was given by the Holy Spirit, Who can handle anything. We also tell ourselves that our doubts about the outcome are fear, and that fear, being the opposite of love, is really hate. So now we are offering hate to one to whom we offered love.

Ouch! Do we have the strength to reason with ourselves in this way? How many of us are willing to talk to ourselves like this? Yet this is what we are called to do. We have to face our lack of trust for what it is. Only then, with its disguises off, will we give it up.

p4. One of the most difficult temptations to recognize is that to doubt a healing because of the appearance of continuing symptoms is a mistake in the form of lack of trust. As such it is an attack. Usually it seems to be just the opposite. It does appear unreasonable at first to be told that continued concern is attack. It has all the appearances of love. Yet love without trust is impossible, and doubt and trust cannot coexist. And hate must be the opposite of love, regardless of the form it takes. Doubt not the gift and it is impossible to doubt its result. This is the certainty that gives God’s teachers the power to be miracle workers, for they have put their trust in Him.

In this paragraph, Jesus now acknowledges what we have already been thinking: “Continued concern” about the outcome seems like love, doesn’t it? When confronted with our concern, we might well say, “I just want to make sure this person is healed.” It doesn’t seem like a mistake. And it certainly doesn’t seem like an attack, an act of hate. Jesus understands this. He openly acknowledges that this is “one of the most difficult temptations to recognize.”

But then he explains why continued concern really is hate. Doubt means lack of trust. If I doubt that you have received the healing, then I am not trusting you, right? We can probably go with him this far. And then he says, “Love without trust is impossible.” Can we accept this? If I tell you, “I love you with a pure and total love, but I don’t trust you as far as I can throw you,” does that sound sincere? Love and trust go together, so that to the extent I don’t trust you, to that same extent I don’t love you. We can make the foregoing points into a syllogism.

My doubt is really mistrust.
Mistrust is not love.
My doubt is not love.

So Jesus has established that mistrust is not love, it is incompatible with love, the opposite of love. Now he adds on one last part: “And hate must be the opposite of love, regardless of the form it takes.” We can express the import of this in yet another syllogism:

My doubt is the opposite of love.
Every form of the opposite of love is really hate.
My doubt is really hate.

We have been gently led, step by step, to admitting that our continued concern is not love but hate. Yet what are we really doubting? It seems like we are doubting the other person’s ability to receive the gift, or perhaps the Holy Spirit’s ability to make sure the gift is received. But is that really it? Is it possible that there is a deeper doubt?

p5. The real basis for doubt about the outcome of any problem that has been given to God’s Teacher for resolution is always self-doubt. And that necessarily implies that trust has been placed in an illusory self, for only such a self can be doubted. This illusion can take many forms. Perhaps there is a fear of weakness and vulnerability. Perhaps there is a fear of failure and shame associated with a sense of inadequacy. Perhaps there is a guilty embarrassment stemming from false humility. The form of the mistake is not important. What is important is only the recognition of a mistake as a mistake.

This paragraph hits us right between the eyes. It says that what we are really doubting is ourselves. We are really doubting the trueness of our gift. We don’t really believe it was given from the true Self in us. We think our little self gave the gift, and that our little self was too small to put enough in it—enough love, enough care, enough thoughtfulness, enough helpfulness, enough generosity.

This is because we think we are weak and vulnerable. We think we are inadequate, and therefore are ashamed of ourselves and sure that we will fail. We think that we are dirt (the root word for humility is humus), and therefore don’t feel good enough to be in this role of the giver. We feel embarrassed about trying to be the giver, the helper, the healer.

This is “the real basis for doubt about the outcome.” We doubt the trueness of our own giving. And then we project this onto the receiver. We now seem to doubt their ability to receive. What else would we do? Who of us wants to admit that we think our gift is inadequate, an expression of our own deep inadequacy? It is much more comfortable to say that the failure in this process lay on the other end. In class, Greg used the analogy of a quarterback in football passing to his receiver. If the pass is intercepted, the quarterback is prone to say that it was the receiver’s fault, even when deep-down he knew he threw a bad pass. We are the quarterback, doubting the quality of our passes, but then blaming our receivers. It’s as if there is a place in us that knows that the gift itself contains the outcome, and so we doubt the outcome because we doubt the gift itself.

p6. The mistake is always some form of concern with the self to the exclusion of the patient.

Without realizing it, what we have done is get caught up in self-concern, and this is the death of giving. The self-concerned giver is obsessed with “how am I doing?” And thus the receiver is lost sight of. No wonder such a giver doubts the quality of his gift.

Exercise

Pick someone in your life who seems to genuinely need something from you, not just an ego need, a real need.

Realize this person’s request is asked by the Holy Spirit in him or her.

What is the Holy Spirit in this person asking you for? Take a moment, ask, and listen.

When you have a sense of the request, now ask the Holy Spirit in you,

“What would You like to give through me?”

Now visualize this gift taking some sort of form.

Imagine yourself walking with this gift toward the treasure house in this person’s mind.

This is the place deep within where all of his or her gifts are stored, waiting for acceptance.

See angels guarding its open doors, making sure no gifts are lost and only more are added.

As you approach the doors, notice that the recipient of your gift is standing outside, waiting.

Say to this person, “This gift is for you.

I will place it in your treasure house, where it will wait for you as long as need be.”

Walk into the treasure house.

There, you are surprised to see the receiver again. Only now you see the sane part of this person, the enlightened part, the right-minded part, the part that dwells in the treasure house.

Humbly hand this saintly being your gift.

See his or her gratitude as the gift is received.

The Course says, “In his mind there is a part that joins with yours in thanking you” (Lesson 197).

As you pause to walk away, make note of any concern you have that the conscious part of the person, the outer person, will never claim the gift, or will treat it carelessly once he or she does.

Realize this concern goes against the whole spirit of the gift,

for it means you don’t trust this person, and mistrust is another form of hate.

Resolve to leave this gift there with only love in your heart.

As you walk out, say to this person:

“I relinquish all concern about this gift,

For I give it in love.

I am certain that it has been received.

And I trust that you will accept it.

I gave it from the Holy Spirit in me.

And I trust the Holy Spirit in you to move you to claim it when you are ready.”