December is just around the corner, ushering in holiday preparations and the giving and receiving of gifts. Christmas brings a special kind of giving and receiving, but these two attributes are active in various forms all year. Throughout the year we are given many opportunities to participate in a variety of meaningful exchanges involving giving and receiving. I believe giving and receiving are equally important, but in our culture the act of giving is honored more than the act of receiving. Growing up I never heard a positive presentation about receiving, but I was often reminded that it was better to give than receive. On the surface it appeared that the giver came from a place of strength, while the receiver came from a place of weakness and need, whose admission was to be avoided.
Our culture also applauds people who seem to be so independent that they need help from no one. Having to request help means a person is somehow less than functional, which no one wants to admit. There can be something inside of us that persists in believing that we are meant to do everything on our own and, with that attitude, we close ourselves off from the gifts and solutions available if we are unwilling to receive.
We also close ourselves off when we feel undeserving or unworthy. Something as simple as a compliment can reveal our level of self-esteem. Do we accept the compliment, or do we argue that what was just said couldn’t possibly be true of us? If this is one of those days when self-esteem is flagging (and we all have days like that), try to be receptive to whatever praise comes your way. Live with the assumption that you are gorgeous, strong, intelligent, and uniquely creative. And that is especially true for those of you with temporarily absent hair, raw skin, fresh scars, and constantly changing body size.
You deserve every compliment you receive and you deserve the fun of giving compliments. Sarah Ban Breathnach writes this about compliments: “We’re all so fragile, especially when we put on a brave face. A sincere compliment can penetrate beneath even the most sophisticated masks to sooth troubled souls. The woman you think needs compliments the least is probably the one who needs them the most.” The next time you are given a compliment just stand there and take it in, accept it, feel it, and know you are worthy and deserving.
Breast cancer was my doorway into the gift of receiving. There were times following my series of surgeries when I couldn’t take care of myself, and helping hands were needed. My facade of independence could no longer be maintained, and I was humbled into a place of need. I’m very comfortable in the role of giving, but it was time for me to get comfortable with receiving by asking for help. To get me started in the right direction I created the mantra “I will be a gracious receiver,” which I said quietly to myself throughout the day. And when I did that a flood gate opened, bringing my husband and myself more thoughtfulness and generosity from others than I could have imagined. I felt well-loved and supported, and soon all the kindnesses formed a large, velvety cushion underneath me that helped to absorb some of the hard knocks along the way to recovery. Receiving is powerful.
People surprised me by being delighted to help. As I thanked them, I was also thanked for receiving what they were offering. Cheryl Richardson writes this: “Ask for help. Receiving is an act of generosity.” I discovered that below the surface, giving and receiving can’t be separated because both offer the same deep nurturing satisfaction, and complete the circle of meaningful human interactions. A basic law of biology states that an organism cannot give out more than it has taken in. Therefore, generous receiving allows us to be generous givers.
Looking beyond myself, I could see how natural receiving can be. Flowers only grow by receiving light. The earth can only grow what feeds us by receiving rain. Babies can’t survive and develop without receiving love. A person’s potential cannot be reached without receiving stimulating experiences. Every day offers gifts that are ours if we are willing to receive. Mark Nepo writes, “The pulse of being alive moves like blood circulating in the body, and giving and receiving, like arteries and veins, are both necessary. When we meet life with an open heart, receiving becomes indistinguishable from giving and we become conduits of grace.”
So, wherever we are in our recovery process, let’s embrace the art of receiving, as well as giving. This is what our monthly meetings are all about, and it’s why we leave feeling nurtured by our time together.
Until Next Time – Sylvia