Artwork by Jane Ray

Artwork by Jane Ray

We’ve all heard the old adage, “It’s better to give than to receive.” And, surely enough, many of us have great difficulty in receiving – praise, help, love and support. Perhaps it is because underneath this seemingly pious phrase is the suggestion that to receive is to be the weak one, the needy one, the poor one.

From this perspective, most of us would rather be the ‘giver’ than the ‘taker.’ Which I think, incidentally, is nuts – because giving and receiving happen simultaneously – like pollination, they are interdependent acts. So why do we hear nothing about the courage it takes to receive?

Taken to its extreme, giving can even become pathological. We may give and give so much that we run ourselves ragged. We may even hang our whole persona on the misguided belief that if we aren’t always offering, providing and producing, that we could lose our standing in the world.

But consider that receptivity is more than just a physical act; it is a rich set of qualities which allow us to live in reciprocity with our Selves, each other and the earth. These yin-based attributes include dreaming, listening, feeling, intuiting, waiting and perceiving. But because our dominant culture leans with such a pronounced bias towards taking action, or what the Chinese would call yang, many of these abilities have fallen into widespread disuse. And worse, devaluation.

At the heart of it, I think we avoid the receptive state because it penetrates our public presentations and takes us right into the question of worthiness. Am I deserving of this goodness? This happiness? This pleasure? Do I deserve to stand in this circle? Take up room? Be heard?

It takes what I like to call vulnerabravery to receive. For the person with a lifelong habit of contraction from receiving, a skillfully-landed generosity can break the husk on the heart and release the grief of how long one has survived without their needs feeling seen. But know that this grief is the sign of healing, the opening of those places which for too long have been declining love.

When we ask for help, we are building community. We are doing away with this notion that we should be practicing at detachment. We are rapturously attaching! We become responsible for tending to one another’s pieces. Not only is the giver allowed to express their bestowing heart, the receiver is taken into a greater tenderness of their own giving nature. As we grow our capacity for gratitude, which is another way of  saying completeness, or belonging, we are healing our tinygiant part of the world’s devastating wound of scarcity.

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