You might be someone who’s proud to have a big heart. You love to help others. The best feeling is when you’ve done something wonderful to make another person’s life a little better. You probably have a really strong giving “muscle” but have you spend as much time focused on learning how to receive? Maybe it’s time to think about how to balance your giving and receiving abilities.
Balanced Giving and Receiving
You probably have a clear idea of what giving means. Our society has a long history of valuing service to others and we’re well-versed in the art of giving. The holidays are particularly filled with symbols of service and giving. We are taught as young children to be giving, especially for girls and women.
While this is all fine and good, our society is not quite as good at teaching us how to receive. Giving is seen as a strength and receiving is perceived as weakness. Receiving is a skill we have to learn to do better so we can achieve more balance in our lives. The art of receiving is just as important as the art of giving.
Why It’s Important
We are good at seeing the value of giving since it seems to have altruism at its core. But it’s harder to see the benefits of receiving without looking a little closer.
The fact is you can’t have a giver without also needing a receiver. While we like to think that giving is pure altruism, it really isn’t. The giver is hoping to get warm fuzzies from the interaction, but this isn’t possible if the receiver pushes away what is being given. When we can’t receive with grace and gratitude, we cause the person who is giving to feel unappreciated and misunderstood.
We also run the risk of reinforcing our sense of pride and self-sufficiency instead of investing in community, vulnerability, and gratitude. In other words, our ego drives our inability to accept a gift which makes it less likely that we can enter into deep, meaningful relationships with others.
Giving Needs Receiving
Giving and receiving is a dance between two parties. It requires full participation from both people or groups. Working toward a balance between the two is important so that you can be humble, feel loved, and allow your relationships to develop more fully.
While you might be imagining actual physical gifts being exchanged between two people, that’s not the only expression of giving and receiving. Giving can be as simple as offering a compliment to someone and the receiving can be an appreciative ‘Thank you.’
Risks of Overgiving
While it’s tempting to always want to be the giver, it’s also an unhealthy way to be in relationships with others. Overgiving can lead to resentment, burnout, and increased depression. If you don’t feel joyful and energized by giving, you’re probably giving too much. When this happens, it’s a sign that you need to take some time to engage in receiving to help restore the balance. After all, you can’t fill another’s cup from a dry well. Take the time to receive help, love, and care to ensure you’re “full” enough to then be able to give back.
Ways to Practice Receiving
Many of us are already good at giving. But receiving takes practice. It’s time to reframe our feelings around receiving. Instead of feeling shame, embrace the virtues of vulnerability. Realize that being a receiver is also being a giver. How? By allowing the person who is doing the giving to feel good about their gift. If you reject their giving to preserve your own pride, you also deprive them of the warm feelings that come with giving.
Most importantly, by being a graceful receiver you allow yourself to feel cared for and loved. This is a crucial building block for healthy relationships and for taking good care of yourself.
Here are a few ways you can practice receiving so you can be just as good at it as you are at giving.
- Start a daily gratitude journal.
- Pay attention to the gifts of life that surround you and acknowledge them.
- Mentally say thank you to the sunshine, the cheerful birdsong, and the beauty on your morning walk.
- When someone offers you a compliment, smile and offer back a genuine “Thank you!”
- During hectic seasons, holidays, and special events say ‘yes’ to offers of help (and show your gratitude).
- Show gratitude toward yourself. Pay attention to the self-care you engage in and recognize that it’s a gift you give to yourself.
- When you find yourself complaining, try to reframe it into a feeling of gratitude. What is the lesson you can learn and be grateful for?
- Use moments of gracious receiving to teach your kids about the balance between giving and receiving.
- When life gets overwhelming, learn to reach out to ask for help and then gratefully accept that help.
- Work with a therapist if you find yourself experiencing lots of emotional blocks to receiving. You’ll be grateful you did.
- Find opportunities to allow others to give, especially if you’re typically the giver.
Practice Giving and Receiving to Create Balance
It’s important to be a genuine giver to others, but it’s equally as important to learn how to receive. Being a receiver is often harder to learn to do than it is to learn to be a giver. It’s just as important to your overall health and well-being, however. By learning to balance how much you give and how much you receive, you’ll deepen your relationships and ensure that your well is always full enough so that you can give to others with joy.