by Joyce and Barry Vissell
How do you handle acknowledgment from others? There are two different types of acknowledgment. There are compliments which are more superficial and can involve the clothes or jewelry we are wearing, the car we drive, the beautiful dog walking by our side or our adorable baby. If these compliments are pure and not part of someone trying to pick you up, they are relatively easy to accept and say thank you. Then there are deeper appreciations that involve your character and inner qualities. How would you respond if someone spoke directly from their heart, “You have so much love coming through you.” Or “Your wisdom has really changed my life.” “I feel uplifted just being in your presence.” “There is so much light coming from your eyes.” “You are a true healer and I feel so much better.” How would you honestly respond?
There are many people who feel uncomfortable and do not really know how to respond to these types of appreciations. Some people would deflect the appreciation and say something like, “Oh you too.” They would then quickly change the subject. Some people would ignore the comment all together but think to themselves, “If you really knew me, you would not be saying such a thing.” My beloved father would always smile and say, “Nonsense!” I knew that he liked the appreciation, but he just couldn’t let on that he did. One day I wrote out all my appreciations and sent them to him. Weeks went by and I did not hear back. Finally I called and asked if he received them. All he said was “yes.” Years later, a week after he had passed away, I found the letter hidden under his shirts in the drawer. The paper was worn out from being looked at so much. He truly did treasure those appreciations and yet it was so difficult to let me know.
When Barry and I were twenty-two we got married in December during his break from Meharry Medical School in Nashville, Tennessee. This was an African/American school in the 60’s when civil rights was a huge issue. It was difficult for him to be in the white minority. On his first day back to school, Barry came to me with a look of vulnerability and need for my love. His vulnerability allowed me to see the greatness of his being and all that he was meant to be in this world. With all the love in my heart I simply said, “Barry I feel in awe of who you are.” He became embarrassed and said, “I’m not sure you should say something like that.” Fortunately Barry has since learned to really take in what I say to him.
Why is it hard to receive an appreciation? None of us want to be like the person who takes in the appreciation and then feels that they are the greatest human being on the planet. We all have met people who have a very big ego and genuinely feel they are more special than anyone else. People like that can be unpleasant to be around. None of us want to feel superior to others.
I personally have struggled with this issue very intently in my early years. I was always striving for humility and I equated accepting an appreciation with a lack of humility. Forty years ago, when we were first starting to give workshops, a woman walked up and gave me such a genuine appreciation. It felt so good to hear her words and yet, afterwards, I excused myself and went into the bathroom and started to cry. I felt lost and just didn’t know how to handle the appreciations that were coming my way.
Right at this time a great blessing came into our lives in the form of a simple little woman in Mt. Shasta named Pearl. She was in her 70’s with permed gray hair and a bit of a lisp in her speech. By all appearances she was just a little old lady that lived in a little neighborhood house with flowers. But Pearl could see us in the deepest way. She could see our heart’s desire and had the ability to guide us along our path so that we could be of service from the heart. Whenever she saw one of us going up to our heads to figure something out, she would remind us to come back down to our hearts. She once told Barry and me that we would never be able to help people unless we could see and experience them from our hearts. Her teachings were good and pure and we will always feel grateful for our time with her. She did not have a large following, just some people who would come and sit in her living room and listen. I noticed that people often gave Pearl very deep appreciations. She would just smile in wonder at their words and say “Thank you.” She remained humble and pure.
One day I asked her how she receives appreciations so gracefully, and her simple reply helped to change my life. “I am always surprised and delighted at how God will come through me to help another. I never really know myself and when someone tells me, then it is such a blessing that all I can say is thank you.” She was not sitting there thinking, “Oh my, I am such a special person.” She was merely delighted that the Great Presence of Love was coming through her to bless another. She never took credit for any of it.
Next time someone appreciates you, listen deeply to their words. Then thank them and feel the wonder that the higher energies were able to come through you to bless this person. Feel a sense of awe that ordinary human beings can be used to bless and help others. When we see it this way, all we can really feel is grateful.
Here are a few opportunities to bring more love and growth into your life, at the following longer events led by Barry and Joyce Vissell: Jul 19-24—Shared Heart Summer Retreat at Breitenbush Hot Springs, OR; Oct 14-20—Assisi Retreat, Italy for individuals and couples; Feb 7-14, 2016—Hawaii Couples Retreat
Joyce & Barry Vissell, a nurse/therapist and psychiatrist couple since 1964, are counselors near Santa Cruz, CA, who are widely regarded as among the world’s top experts on conscious relationship and personal growth. They are the authors of The Shared Heart, Models of Love, Risk to Be Healed, The Heart’s Wisdom, Meant to Be, and A Mother’s Final Gift.
Call Toll-Free 1-800-766-0629 (locally 831-684-2299) or write to the Shared Heart Foundation, P.O. Box 2140, Aptos, CA 95001, for further information on counseling sessions by phone or in person, their books, recordings or their schedule of talks and workshops. Visit their web site at SharedHeart.org for their free monthly e-heartletter, their updated schedule, and inspiring past articles on many topics about relationship and living from the heart.