We all grew up being told that it’s more blessed to give than to receive, so most of us elevate one act to a place of goodness and kindness while the other is degenerated. While it’s true that this teaching safeguards us from becoming self-centred, we neglect to see that to want to be always the ‘giver’ has more than a touch of insecurity or arrogance, reflecting a sad lack of humility and graciousness. Receiving is an act of generosity too.
A wise person once said that this balance of giving and receiving was “the true completion of the heart’s transaction.”
Unless we are careful, most giving comes with a hook of sorts, while addiction to giving can leave people burnt-out and resentful. Those whose energy is invested only in giving have probably experienced the consequences of taking on too much, being vulnerable to physical, emotional and mental exhaustion and illness. There is something so tragic about someone who once insisted, “I give, but don’t expect anything in return,” later in life bitterly saying, “After all I’ve done ………”
Many who are uncomfortable with receiving need to examine a driving and anxious need for control, or for thinking highly of oneself. Perhaps they feel reciprocal —- giving has to be as large as if not greater than what was given to them, or, that giving, to be truly blessed, has to deprive them in some way.
So, rather than just the idea of giving and receiving, perhaps we need to look at “wise giving” and “gracious receiving.” A story is told about Saint Martin. As a young soldier, he arrived at the city walls after a long, difficult campaign with his army. Exhausted, dirty and cold, all he could think of was a meal, a bath and warm bed and shelter for his horse. Just before he entered the city gates, he noticed a beggar, naked and shivering. The beggar called out to Martin, who stopped to help the poor man, but not having any food or money to give him, he drew out his sword and cut his large cape into two, giving half of it to the beggar.
That same night as Martin slept safe and sound at the inn, he had a dream, where the same beggar appeared and honoured Martin for his good deed, proclaiming that what he did for the poor man, he did for God. Other versions say that, in his dream, he saw Christ wearing half a cloak and telling his angels that Martin had given it to him.
Why did Martin give only half his cape ? It seemed that if he really wanted to help the man, wasn’t it a little selfish to keep half of it for himself ?
These days, it makes so much more sense : It is a powerful ‘metaphor’ about wise and caring giving and receiving, about caring for yourself and caring for others. The Universe would have it no other way —— living with a rhythm of giving and receiving, keeping ourselves and others ‘balanced and whole.’
There is no such thing as only giving or only receiving. The cycle is, in a lovely phrase, just ‘LIFE RE-ARRANGING ITSELF CONSTANTLY.
———————- Marguerite Theophil.