I’ve been doing a lot of contemplating lately about the meaning of abundance, and especially about my own ability to receive. If you’ve ever read Lynne Twist, and her book “The soul of money”, she talks about rather than giving another fish (or handouts of any kind), for their own self-confidence, we do better teaching them to fish.
Nonetheless, life has been busy teaching me lessons in humility – of simply learning to receive for the sake of receiving. Not because I have somehow earned it. Not because of some intrinsic value that I have of “I am worthy”, but rather – would you just open your hands and receive?
With all the focus in recent years on the Law of Attraction, I’ve been studiously avoiding the idea of something for nothing. I mean, I get we work on our mindset and the spiritual aspects of receiving, but, at the end of the day, “you work hard to play hard”.
Nevertheless, after burning out with living my life trying to live up to my own expectations of success and still please other people – constantly giving, pouring from an empty cup – I finally reached a place where I said, “Okay life, I’m ready to learn how to give and receive your way.”
I admit I grew up in a Christian environment where giving was championed, it was a sign of being strong. Subconsciously, then, receiving was weak.
Tis’ better to give than to receive, right?
But abundance isn’t just about the material wealth: it’s about the quality of our relationships, our health and our wellbeing. If you aren’t open to receiving on those levels, you aren’t truly living in abundance.
Can you receive as well as you give?
Can you allow all good to flow through you, for you and within you?
What I have been avoiding is recognising that abundance is about connection – about energy – and most importantly, about joy. Abundance is not about money and riches, although those can no doubt be part of gratefully receiving.
So, life has thrown the spanner in the works –
Are you ready to experience abundance in all areas of your life, and not just focus on some individual aspects of life as if nothing was connected?
Learning to give generously
One of the first lessons has been that giving needs to come from the right place. Not giving from a place of “this is a transaction – I give in order to allow God to bless me with more.” Giving is not a power play so that I can become more powerful. Nor does giving salve any guilt I may feel about having too much!
What are my intentions and motives in giving?
For starters, and this is really related to my previous posts on burnout – am I giving from a place of generosity or from a sense of obligation? Do I give to enlarge my sense of importance and self-worth – whether in my own eyes or the eyes of others? Or perhaps my giving is motivated by needing to be needed.
None of these expressions of giving come from a place of abundance. They are simply a reflection of lack.
- I lack validation… so I give
- When I lack self-worth or importance, I give to make myself feel better or look better
- I need to be needed, so I give to make others dependent upon me
This is not abundance or my cup running over. These motives for giving are simply pride, insecurity, expectation or duty. They are not generosity and abundance.
This year has been about learning a new way of giving. Giving from a place of abundance. Giving joyfully, simply because I can. Expecting nothing in return, because I am already complete and whole.
But, in order to reach a place of generosity, I’ve had to do a lot of inner work on my own value and self-worth, and that has required a vulnerability that I did not wish to explore.
The vulnerability of receiving
I am not one to ask for or admit that I need help. Growing up, especially being sent off to boarding school at 8-years-old, taught me staunch independence! This independence, in many ways, has created the strong woman that I am today. But it has also come at a cost.
I struggle to receive compliments, without back-handing myself with a put-down. It’s difficult for me to receive love and compassion from others. I’m squeamish with intimacy and connection, particularly if I feel too open and vulnerable.
But I accept that keeping others at a distance closes the door on receiving. It closes the door on receiving the full abundance that life has to offer.
Being the giver in my relationships – whether work, charity or personal – allowed me to be in control. Or at least, pretend to be.
The not-so-free gifts
Additionally, as a woman, I accept that there are times that I have turned away gifts because I have felt that there are strings attached. Strings attached to any gift makes it a transaction, not a gift. And I finally had to accept, within myself, that I was not turning away someone’s generosity by saying no to these “gifts”.
I was truly standing up for my self-worth.
And rather than beat myself up for these instances, I’m learning to stand tall. Because if there is a transaction, I have the right to decide whether or not I want to participate. I can say “no” to negotiation or a deal. I am not obliged to accept it.
A gift with strings attached is no gift at all, and I am not closing the doors to abundance by saying no.
Let’s grab a coffee
By the same token, however, I have to look at how I respond to a friend’s invitation to coffee. Do I insist that I have to repay her for that coffee because now I “owe” her? I am throwing that coffee back in her face by treating the time spent and the enjoyment as a transaction that must be repaid.
How about we learn just to enjoy a coffee together with no requirement for reciprocity? We’ll have another coffee from the sheer joy of having coffee together at another time.
And we’ll allow each other the joy of giving and graciously receiving.
Giving too much and not receiving
I’ve already mentioned the burnout that I went through – mostly my own doing – simply trying to live up to what I believed to be other people’s expectations. I was busy being a people-pleaser, rather than actually giving generously from a place of true abundance.
When giving becomes a burden and obligation, we’re coming from a place of lack and need! It doesn’t matter if you are giving money, things, time or energy – if you are exhausted by it, then something is out of balance.
Your giving is no good if it’s unsustainable or you feel like you are sacrificing too much. In the long term, you will resent it.
Even if you don’t feel this immediately, at some point in time, the resentment builds up towards those very people you are giving to. Because you need to receive. And perhaps you have unmet expectations of some type of reciprocity which is not being met.
Just like the tides ebb and flow, our giving and receiving must also ebb and flow. Bring yourself back into balance. Refill your cup.
Learning to receive graciously
There are many ways to learn to receive. One of them is to learn to receive compliments with a simple thank you or with a validation of the compliment. Without putting yourself down. Without returning the compliment and outdoing the other person. Simply receiving graciously.
I have finally understood that receiving graciously is about my own self-worth.
I am enough.
I am worthy.
Receiving from others does not make me any less valuable as a member of society. Sometimes, this means that I have to reframe the terms “selfishness” – to be totally “selfless” means to be worthless and burnt out. There is no self left. And so, I have had to learn my boundaries and limitations.
Perhaps the hardest lesson has been in learning to say “no”. Once again, this comes back to a strict Christian upbringing where we were taught “servanthood”. And being good servants meant doing whatever was asked of you. Unfortunately, this did not come hand-in-hand with lessons of self-care and making sure that you were fit for service!
It also reflected back on me in my value of self-worth, as I already addressed above. When something doesn’t feel good, I am allowed to say “no”, especially when a gift feels like it comes with strings attached.
True generosity happens when you are willing to receive
If I refuse to receive a gift given from another’s generosity – I am robbing them of the opportunity to give joyously! If I feel somehow indebted to another, perhaps from the sheer size of the gift, rather than trying to “return the favour”, perhaps the biggest act of altruism that I can do is to pay it forward!
Rather than trying to outdo the person that gave to me, out of my abundance, I can give to another, with joy and from a place of overflowing.
As you work the muscles of receiving, you will learn to ask for what you want. Personally, asking isn’t easy. But I am learning to ask. And I am learning to say “no” to what I don’t want.
Because these last twelve months have taught me that how well I receive determines how happy I am. When I am open to receiving, I am open to being blessed and being a blessing to others around me.
This is abundance and the Law of Attraction.
This is really on target for me. I usually am a cheerful giver. I have a much harder time receiving. Thank you this was written for me!
I too was brought up on Biblical principles of giving. Sometimes I struggle with receiving when I feel “unworthy” as you mentioned. But grace is free so I’m learning to accept regardless of what state I’m in.
Funny how we learned grace was free… And yet struggled to receive everything else.
I think this hits close too many people with religious upbringings bc were taught to give to everyone but no one teaches us to receive freely, bc when someone gives me something the first thought I get is I have to give them something back, so I totally get where you’re coming from, I’ve been working on my own reprogramming my subconscious to change these thoughts bc they truly don’t benefit us at all! Great post! Truly hit the nail right on
This post really resonated with me. I felt the same for a long time, I still do (more than I’d like to admit), but it’s good to know that others have gone through similar experiences and it’s still a learning process.
I know it is late. I learned a lesson years ago. You give what you treasure. From that I learned that love is the greatest gift you can give. That simple thing that may seem meaningless to many may mean the world to someone.