Until we can receive with an open heart, we can never really give with an open heart. – Brene Brown
For many of us, it’s easy to give. We give our time and attention. We find ways to help others, we give money, presents and compliments. And we do it because it feels good and we want to live up to the values that are important to us. There is something incredibly gratifying and fulfilling about helping another. (If you haven’t done it, try it!)
But so often, it isn’t the same story with receiving. Our first reaction is often to decline the gift of attention and care, or if we are in receipt, to feel uncomfortable with what we are receiving. I’ve been grateful to have many opportunities to receive in different ways, but somewhat embarrassingly I must admit that my ability to receive with grace and gratitude has been quite abysmal.
So what is it about receiving gifts of attention, time and care that can make it hard to accept and how can we do better?
- Our inability to receive may at its heart come from feelings of unworthiness. We can feel as if we’re undeserving or as if we’re imposing on someone else. Yet what happens when we do this is that we only confirm our own belief about who we are. We believe we are unworthy of this care, so we decline it or push it away in some other way, which diminishes the gift of receiving and confirms what we believe to be true about ourselves.
- We may perceive the support given as a sign of our weakness and inability to do something ourselves. It can feel like there is an underlying power dynamic at play. We want to believe that we are independent, and do not need help, so we refuse it. The help offered makes us feel weak and vulnerable.
- We are worried that there might be an expectation of reciprocity, that we somehow might now owe a debt. The way we receive often reflects something about the way we give. Look into the way you give, do you have any underlying assumptions somewhere deep down?
To give and to receive. They are two sides of the same coin. One can’t exist without the other. By not receiving we are out of balance. How can we give truly and freely when we can’t accept with grace and gratitude? How can we do better?
- Give the gift of giving. Realise that the person who is giving is, may, in fact, be the one who might be receiving more. How great does it feel to be able to support someone else? To be the one who your friend turns to when they need help? When you can ask and accept someone’s help, you are honouring who they are and what they have to offer.
- Understand and know that you are worthy of receiving. We all need help from time to time. Simply say thank you and feel the gratitude within. The gratitude you can extend to another is a great gift in and of itself. And when it is the right time, you, in turn, can extend the giving in some way to another person and continue the cycle of giving and receiving.
- Giving and receiving builds intimacy. Help build closer relationships with those around you by showing your vulnerability, understanding our interdependence and accepting the offer of help. When we can share our vulnerability we are saying, we are all at heart the same. By giving and receiving, we build closer relationships. The more vulnerable we can be with each other, the closer we become.
The reality and beauty of our lives is that we are all dependent on each other – it’s the nature of our existence and as human beings, we seek connection with each other.
Look around you now. The laptop or phone you’re reading this on, the chair you’re sitting on, the clothes you’re wearing, that cup of coffee you just had. Just think about all the different people that have worked together to help create this. Look at your family and friends, the loved ones around you who help make up the life that you have.
Our power lies in the fact that together we are so much more than we are alone.
Working together, supporting each other, doesn’t come from a place of weakness, it helps us to do and be more for ourselves and for each other. Learn to accept with grace and gratitude, and from that place of wholeness, you, in turn, can give to another – and build a closer community around you while doing so.