In my work with clients, I often encounter people who struggle with "receiving." These folks cling to the notion that 'tis nobler to give than to receive. The truth is, you can't have one without the other. Giving and receiving are the two sides of the same coin. They're like the inside and the outside of your T-shirt, simply inseparable.
A way to look at giving and receiving -- which is very different from TAKING -- is that this pair of opposites is similar to the numerals 6 and 12 on the face of the clock. Another example is that of the season of summer and the season of winter, opposites on the yearly calendar. One is not "better," in fact they are simply phases of the identical principle.
Why might it be difficult to receive? One reason is that to some people, receiving or in fact needing anything, connotes weakness. Looked at logically, that's a fallacy. We don't see ourselves as "weak" for needing air, food, or water, yet we positively require them for our survival.
Another defense I hear against receiving turns on the belief that one is unworthy of receiving. This posture is equally false. Our "worth" has nothing to do with receiving. Only once did I hear someone say that her very life was a waste of oxygen which others could breathe, just before she attempted to end her life. Fortunately, her suicide failed, and she now embodies much better mental health. She can give and receive in equal valence.
Sometimes we don't realize that receiving well is literally a gift to the giver. Each of us throughout our lives has the opportunity to be in both positions time and again.
Let me tell you two stories about how I learned to receive well. The first happened in 1977 as I lay in my hospital bed the night before my hysterectomy to remove cervical cancer. It occurred to me that my very life depended upon the work which the whole surgical team would do the next day, and I prayed for them all. A wave of peacefulness washed through me and over me. I received their ministrations fully, with ease and grace. The hospital discharge slip read, "Diagnosis: carcinoma in situ. Results: cured." I am convinced that a piece of my REMAINING cancer-free 40 years later was the change in my own attitude, to one of recognizing the UNITY of giving and receiving.
The second event is much more recent. Three years ago, while taking a bath, I noticed that one of the bathroom bulbs over the sink had burned out. After my bath, wet and wrapped in a towel, I got out a new light bulb. I stepped up onto the lid of the toilet seat, then onto the counter by the sink. I removed the bad bulb and started screwing the new one in. I must have either slipped or lost my balance, for I needed support. With both hands, what I grabbed was the brass tubing carrying the current to the bulbs. This resulted in my starting to get electrocuted! I felt that my heart couldn't take it for long, and I shrieked for my husband.
Then my Inner Wisdom kicked in. Remember, when you're being electrocuted, your muscles don't work right. I couldn't let go. Without conscious thought, I must have leaned back, which detached my hands from the electrified brass tubes. I subsequently fell backwards three plus feet onto the ceramic tile floor, and my head punched a hole through the drywall of the other side of the bathroom.
Meanwhile, my husband came running. He immediately asked me to wiggle my toes, then my fingers. Thankfully, I could: no spinal cord damage. My little cat showed up despite my moans and rolling from side to side in pain, and she kneaded my arm, purring vigorously, as though to remind me that I'd be OK.
I broke no bones in my body, though I had substantial soft tissue damage or insult to my back in the lumbar spine area. Hours later, when I was finally safely in bed, I started calling friends to ask for help. I was bowled over by the outpouring. People brought food, flowers, cards. People prayed for me, did long-distance Reiki and other forms of energetic healing. Sweetest of all was a CranioSacral Therapy buddy who showed up and worked on me while I was lying in bed with my eyes closed. After awhile, I felt something warm and wet on my face. I opened my eyes: her tears were falling upon me. The love, the mercy, the compassion she expressed was healing beyond words.
I believe I received well. I also can give well and with gladness. As we move through life, over time we find ourselves in both positions. If we are able to give freely, it is easier for us to receive fully. Giving and receiving make a fundamental circle together which helps us make life rich, for ourselves and for others.