You’re a loving, giving, kind-hearted person, most of the time. You support the people you care about generously. You let them know how much you appreciate them; you tell the world how wonderful they are.

You encourage and support them in fulfilling their desires and acting on their dreams.

And then, one of them says something to you that feels like a door slammed in your face.

Maybe they’ve just had a bad day.

Or maybe — just maybe — this is a pattern in your relationship.

You give, they take. You give some more; they take some more. Reciprocity is a mere rumour in your relationship.

They take as though they’re entitled to everything you give them, and more. They take as though they believe you owe them whatever they want, even when they don’t come out and ask for it directly.

And when you don’t give them what they want, or behave as they want you to, they lash out in ways that leave you feeling hurt and bewildered. Wondering what you’ve done wrong. Wondering why things went sour, again, so quickly.

You feel stupid, inadequate, small, defensive — and angry. Or you leave your encounter with them convinced that there’s something wrong with you.

Sound familiar?

How do you meet difficult people without closing your heart, resisting them, being defensive or judgemental, or trying to fix yourself, or them?

Let’s take a closer look at the gifts that are being exchanged here.

You offer them gifts of appreciation, love and support. Maybe you also offer them your fear of their unpredictable moods. And the gift of your attempts to placate them. Maybe your gift-giving emerges from a desire to please, or to seek their approval, or to avoid their disapproval. Maybe your gifts flow from something other than simple generosity.

Mixed desires make for muddy gifts. Painful to give; painful to receive.

They give you gifts too. Pleasure, approval, delight when you give them what they want.

And when they don’t get their way? Contempt, dismissiveness, demands, threats. Disapproval, judgement. Covert or overt attempts to bully or guilt you into doing what they want.

These are gifts too.

So what happens when you refuse to accept a gift?

No blame, no shame. You simply and politely say “No, thank you”, and walk away.

The gift remains with its giver.

All that pain they’re dishing out? It’s left in their hands.

By walking away, you give them another gift. The gift of being with their own pain. This brings them into intimate relationship with their own, unacknowledged sorrow, fear and devastation. It opens a space of possibility, in which the healing angels of their nature can do the work of renewal and restoration.

And by saying No, thanks, to gifts that don’t support your heart, you give yourself gifts too. You touch, tenderly, compassionately, your own pain. You meet it up close, and cradle it with love.

You give yourself the gift of healing, of restoring to wholeness those wounded aspects of yourself that cower in the shadows of your own inner judgments.

You give yourself gifts of love, appreciation, support and kindness. Which then adds to the sum of loving kindness in the world.

These are gifts worth giving, worth receiving.