OR HOW TO BALANCE GIVING AND RECEIVING IN YOUR LIFE
What gives you the bigger joy: getting a gift, or making one? Sending a letter, or receiving it?
Let’s look at life as a postal service company. And you are a user of this company, we all are. There are two main processes we can benefit from and take part in: sending and receiving.
All through our lives we share our messages and our wisdom with other people, we give support, knowledge, energy and presence to other people in our lives. But we are also the recipients of what life and other people have to give. We get nurtured, inspired, held, supported and sometimes, even carried.
With which postal service are you more at ease? What would you say is your area of expertise and focus; where do you put your energy? Is it receiving, or sending – giving or getting?
I have learned in many situations in my life that there needs to be a balance between giving and receiving.
The Experience of Giving Too Much
If we give too much, we burn out. We exhaust ourselves. If we give to someone who cannot return the situation to a balanced state, we damage the self-worth of that person, and we create a situation in which what we have to give may be rejected. If we give something that is not wanted, used, appreciated or reciprocated by the recipient, it can create guilt and distance, rather than a positive reaction. What we give cannot be fully used unless there is balance.
I’ve learned this the hard way. I’ve seen that I could not save my marriage by trying to figure out how I could give better, or give the right thing, or more of something. By being in giving-mode most of the time I neglected myself, and I stopped seeing my partner and his truth. Having to give all the time made me blind, bitter, and angry. Yet I held on to the image of myself as someone who can shoulder it all and who can live with little and give a lot.
I once heard the story of a woman who gave a kidney to her husband to save his life. And after the operation and being restored back to health, he had an affair and finally left his wife. How is that fair, you may ask? How can that make sense? Well, maybe receiving something he could not return or balance led him to leave the situation in which he felt indebted and guilty.
In therapy, I can easily see how the balance of giving and receiving works: As long as I charged little, people always discussed the cost, and the effects of the sessions were much limited. Only when I came around to charging what I felt balanced the huge result and shift I can help create, people actually took advantage of it – and they started getting much better results. Because, face it, when you make a big investment, you expect and want big results – and then you are able to get them. That’s why I don’t believe in free sessions. I believe in creating a high give-receive-balance from the start.
Giving and Receiving Between Parents and Children
The balance between parents and children is different. As parents, we are supposed to give. We cannot expect anything in return. As a mother, I give to my child, and my child will be able to accept freely what I have to give – especially when I don’t expect anything in return. When what I give comes with conditions and expectations, it will lead my child to withdraw and to distance himself.
But there IS a balance – we can see it when we look at the interaction of different generations. There’s balance because I, in turn, receive from my parents. The difficulty is that as children, especially as adult children, we often have specific expectations of what we want to receive from our parents and in which way – and that may lead us to not seeing what they ARE and HAVE BEEN giving to us, or how they’ve been nurturing and contributing the exact right thing to our lives.
We have to trust that our parents are perfect for us, no matter how hard our experiences. And we have to assume our role, and take the right place: as children, we have to learn to receive, receive what life is giving us. We have to let go of being angry and disappointed, and learn to be able to take from our parents. Our role is to receive, not to teach or give, or to think that we know it better. Our parents come before us in the flow of life. They have lessons to teach, help to give – often in the most unexpected ways.
And in return, as parents, we have to learn to give selflessly. And for me, the biggest lesson is that I cannot give to my son, unless I also give to myself. I have to nurture myself and learn to receive from myself, if I want to live up to my role of being the giver, the nurturer for my child.
Why It’s so Hard to Receive
To me it seems that for many of us it’s much easier to give than it is to receive. It is easier to nurture others, and to tend to their needs than it is to nurture ourselves. For some people, being generous and giving is the perfect distraction from the pains they carry within. It is so much harder to give to ourselves – because giving to ourselves implies receiving.
I see that we are under an enormous pressure in life to be able to give. We try to present ourselves to the world and to be seen as someone who is in control and able and on top of things. As we teach and share, we give – and we may appear strong and capable. We don’t get questioned. Constant giving can be a way of always being in control. Always being admired and thanked – never being seen as weak, exhausted, frustrated, or short of a solution.
But we are human. We unite all these sides. And never leaving space for our “weaknesses”, our humanity, doesn’t make us stronger. It just gets us stuck in a fight against ourselves. We use our energy to suppress our perceived weakness and vulnerability. And of course, what we resist, persists. What we suppress, gets stronger and eventually, comes into our experience with full force.
Negative Beliefs About Receiving
Allow me to point out a few false beliefs that are widely spread that make it so difficult to receive:
- Receiving is egoism.
Frequently, we tend to judge people who receive and take good care of themselves as selfish, or egoistical. And maybe in some cases, there is an imbalance in the other direction. Maybe there are people who take advantage of others. But there is no need to reject the quality of receiving, only because in its extreme, it is negative. We don’t have to go to the extreme of only taking, getting and receiving. Receiving more doesn’t mean caring less. We first could learn about all the shades of grey between the two extremes, and we could discover the many positive ways of integrating the ability to receive while maintaining the riches of giving.
- We have to earn the right to receive.
No. We don’t. But too often we follow old ancestral patters and collective habits and thoughts that tell us that we have to earn the right to receive.
- Only when I’ve studied a lot I can get a good grade.
- Only when I’ve lost weight I deserve a good relationship or a partner who sees and values me.
- Only when I’ve earned so much money and created security I can rest and take a day off.
… there are a million examples. In my experience, if we think we have to earn the right to receive, we never receive. We never get there. Because when we reach the goal, we have earned that money or have lost that weight, our mind still sticks with the pattern and simply replaces the goal. That means that we can translate the need to earn the right to receive and say it clearly: It means that we can never receive. We are never good enough. And that is simply not true.
- We have to give to prove our worth.
Our instinct and traditional experience is that we feel good when we give to other people, and when they appreciate what we have to contribute. And there is nothing wrong with that. Sharing our gifts and riches is one of the most beautiful experiences we can have. However, we tend to rely too much on that outside approval as a source of feeling good about ourselves. So what do we do then, when we are sick, weak, or negative. What do you do on a day when you just can’t find a positive perspective, when you are full of anger, or feeling insufficient or guilty? It’s on those days when you most need to receive. You need to charge your batteries, receive love, understanding, and care – mostly from yourself. And we have to learn that we are worthy, independently of how we feel and whether we are able to give, perform, and be on top of things. Our worth is not something we have to prove. It is innate. Unconditional. And most of us spend a big part of our lives searching for that feeling of unconditional worth, and turning it into the basis of our existence.
Receiving Is Easy
Receiving is easy. Receiving is a decision, it’s a choice. Receiving is, first and foremost, an inner attitude. It is something we allow ourselves.
For me, it becomes most obvious when I am not working as much as I might feel I should. Then I try to become aware of how I am receiving a relaxing time from life. When I don’t feel inspired or driven, I choose not to pressure myself. I choose to be aware of what life is giving me instead – and to value and appreciate it.
Or when life brings me this new friend that contributes something nice to my life, something I enjoy. Then I make myself aware of how I can just receive it, without worrying about reciprocating it. I just decide to enjoy the fact that this is coming to me so easily.
So in that sense, receiving has a lot to do with learning to appreciate what we have. There is so much more that is wonderful, that works well, that is easy than what we are aware of. We tend to take it all for granted. We don’t value consistently what we receive on a constant basis.
We have to see what is there, and to find our joy and gratitude about it. We have to shift our focus and become aware of the many ways in which we are already receiving. As we become aware, we potentiate this flow, and we allow it in, we allow it to carry and affect us, we enjoy it more, and we can experience how life is giving to us on a grand scale.
So next time you feel that life is against you, next time you are in a fight, next time you struggle, stop. Breathe. Ask yourself: What am I receiving right now? Make a mental list of all the things that you receive and don’t focus on in that moment. And then, look at the things you don’t want in your life and try to see:
- What is this experience giving to me in disguise?
- How is it helping me, what is it teaching me?
- How can I receive better?
- How can I open up to what life is giving me?
Abundance Is Being Worthy of Balance
We will probably spend our lives searching for that balance of giving and receiving. But it’s already a big step to recognize when, why and how we tend to break that balance. It’s a big step to know that balance is important. It’s huge, to see how we try to be in control, and how the need for control over what we receive, how and when keeps us from opening up and receiving what life has to give.
After all, life is wiser. We cannot know or understand everything. We have to trust that any imbalance is good for us to learn. Every time we exhaust ourselves, we can return to balance. Every time we return, we grow and learn.
When we feel blocked, we can find the aspect of our lives that we can shift, in order to return to a flow, and to experience ourselves as receiving beings. We don’t always have to actively change things through our intention, action or motivation. We can step out from that enormous pressure to create our lives and make them into what we want, at least once in a while. And then we can open up to receiving, by trusting that whatever comes is perfect. It may not be what we want – but it surely will be what we need.
When there is a balance between giving and receiving, we can truly experience abundance. And that experience doesn’t depend on getting somewhere, or making something happen. It is in the choice that RIGHT NOW, we deserve to receive. It is in seeing how we already HAVE, ARE and GET so much more than we could ever WANT or ACHIEVE.
So, back to the postal service, my motto these days is: RECEIVE, DON’T SEND. Not because sending is bad. But because it comes to me so easily. I want to explore the receiving part of life.
I will let it guide me, and explore how my experience changes with this simple, but deep guideline. Join me if you will! I would love to know your experiences and thoughts. You can comment below or join a more private space – my community’s private facebook group !
Have a wonderful week, and may you receive in ways that uplift you and make you joyful and happy!