We each receive certain gifts when we come into this life – talents, interests and attributes – that we offer to others. In return, we may receive love, acknowledgement, appreciation, validation, money or other rewards.
Receiving in these ways allows us to replenish the life force we have “spent” which in turn enables us to continue giving.
If we look deeply at our relationships with others through the giving/receiving lens, we find they can all be categorized as:
a. A relationship where you mostly give.
b. A relationship where you mostly receive.
c. A two-way flow relationship.
Creative giving will see you enjoying all three aspects, a two-way flow sometimes, alternating one-way flow positions as different needs arise in you and others.
Sometimes we have relationships in which we are predominantly the giver or the taker. This isn’t a problem as long as it doesn’t represent our primary — or, as it does in some extreme cases, our only — way of relating in the world.
It’s important not to be always in the giving position, or always the one who is in receipt of resources or attention or help.
While giving and receiving are two halves of a whole, our lives are not a series of tit-for-tat, you-give-I-take, then vice versa.
Julie recently had a child and after she came home from hospital, a different friend visited each day bringing with her a cooked dinner for that evening. She was moved by their thoughtfulness and generosity and waited and waited for opportunities to repay them.
It took some time before she realized that the “pay back” possibly wouldn’t be to those particular people. Others had performed such kindnesses for them and they were happy to help her out now, as she would somebody else in future.
In a gift economy, all good deeds go “into the bank” of wellbeing and wealth. In lives that are very busy, we can easily get disconnected from that flow.
In our culture, giving is generally viewed as honorable and praiseworthy, while taking is a bit suspect. (“It is more blessed to give than to receive.”)
In truth, receiving and giving are opposite energies that are inextricably linked. Like breathing in and out, both are needed to keep the flow moving freely.
It would be ridiculous to label inhalation “better” or “worse” that exhalation. So it is with giving and receiving.
Giving and receiving are two sides of the same coin. Too much giving can leave us drained and resentful, too much taking can make us lazy, grasping or tight.
Many of us have over-developed one or other aspect of this duality. Many women become very identified with giving. They make great carers, not just of family but of friends and even strangers, intuitively sensing the needs of others and providing for their comfort and contentment.
But giving is not always an unqualified good. There can be an unconscious shadow side, if it is an attempt to “buy” love or connection, for example.
Or a way to avoid dealing with our own needs, needs that we’re too fearful to address. Or done primarily to make ourselves feel virtuous.
Patricia’s giving side was very overdeveloped; she had real difficulty in receiving.
Giving is the power position (though that’s not how we usually think of it). To receive is to make yourself open, vulnerable.
Women like Patricia have difficulty receiving something as small as a verbal compliment. An underdeveloped capacity to receive is a very common reason for a lack of money, love, success or other forms of energy in life.
Good giving grows out of the fullness of true receiving, when we acknowledge our needs and desires, when we are comfortable with our vulnerability, when we feel a basic trust that life will provide for us, when our cup runneth over.
From that fullness, we naturally share energy, in all its forms, with others.
If you’re a giver to the point of depletion, the next time someone pays you a compliment, breathe in deeply and open up to the acknowledgement.
After that, you might practice asking for something you need or want: a hug, a listening ear, some help with a project, a small gift. Take steps to expand your ability to receive, while still enjoying your capacity to give.
Take your time with this, those who haven’t been there can’t understand how painful it can be. And like all creative change, it’s a gradual process.
On the other side of the equation are those who have difficulty in giving. This hoarding posture is rooted in a feeling of scarcity – a fear that there is not enough of what we need, so we’d better hang on to what we’ve got.
Or a feeling of inadequacy – who would want what we have to give anyway?
Giving generously of your time, energy, ability and ideas as well as money is not the traditional, enforced, self–sacrificing behavior expected of women. This entire joy of giving is that it is not expected or demanded, or not given from guilt or obligation, but free choice.
Flexing this power to choose strengthens it. So use it to meet the world strongly and generously.
Give in any and all situations. Notice how it makes you feel and whatever makes you feel good, do more of that. Then notice how that opens you to more good things coming your way.
Sometimes – again, this is more common in women – people are giving in all aspects of their lives except money. They give generously of their time, love or other resources but when it comes to handing over money, they balk. This is generally attributable to a deep-rooted insecurity, a feeling that money supply is limited and could run out, usually learned in childhood.
The irony is that this tendency to hoard stops the natural flow of money and makes it less likely to flow their way.
What is true of giving and receiving generally is true of money. If you do not give, you do not receive.
Give love and you get love back. Give a smile and you get a smile. Give money and you get money.
If you find this difficult to believe, chances are that you are blocking the flow of money towards you.
So first try it: give away some money, ideally give to the point of discomfort, and then sit back and observe what happens. Watch the energetic flux of money moving to and fro through you. Then practice giving.
Conversely, if you’re highly identified with giving, you might start to develop your receiving side.