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5 Reasons Why Receiving Is Harder Than Giving

Many of us grew up believing that it’s more noble to give than to receive. This edict safeguards us from becoming self-centered monsters — scanning our environment to see what we can extract to fill ourselves.

Recognizing others’ needs, honoring their feelings, and being responsive to the less fortunate safeguards us from the unbridled narcissism that runs wild today.

Yet there are hidden downsides to prioritizing giving over receiving. I’m referring to interpersonal relating, not social policy, which could use a hearty dose of the golden rule. Is it difficult for you to receive love, caring, and compliments? Do you silently squirm inside when someone offers a kind word or a present — or do you allow yourself to deeply receive the gift of kindness, caring, and connection?

8 Comments to
5 Reasons Why Receiving Is Harder Than Giving

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  1. Very thoughtful, insightful article John. Some years ago while attending a talk by a Tibetian Buddhist monk, I heard him say that being selfish can be a higher level of compassion. I believe he was referring to Maitri which means being kind to oneself. You are right on with this. Thank you.

    • Hi Tim,

      Yes, being kind to ourselves is a key, isn’t it? For me, the Focusing practice developed by Eugene Gendlin, which I explore in Dancing with Fire, is all about being gentle with ourselves. My understanding of Buddhism, which I also explore, is that our compassion for others deepens as we deepen our compassion and kindness toward ourselves. The path toward more inner freedom is one of being with our experience just as it is, rather than trying to fix or change ourselves.

  2. Thanks for this, John. A succinct distillation of a complex experience for many.

    • Thanks Joyce! I appreciate your kind comment. Yes, it is indeed a complex issue, isn’t it? But I suppose if it were simple, we’d all be giving and receiving love with an abundance of ease.

  3. Hi John, Thank you for writing this article on receiving. The timing is perfect for me because of a recent monetary gift. I squirm inside when being given money. (I grateful for touch, love, tender words, etc. but money has always been tough…it feels selfish) The gift was towards extending my education so I can work in the healing arts. When the giver, Mark, said, “Its not about you” I got it and the tight feeling dropped. I also realized how selfish I was being by resisting and not letting him be a giver! And as you pointed out, what if there weren’t anyone who accepted my gifts!
    Take care…hope you are well and happy!! Monica

    • Hi Monica,

      What a great story. Yes, we often overlook how it can make people feel good to do something kind or generous for us. So if we reject that, then perhaps we do a disservice to both of us!

  4. Thanks for sharing this article of yours. I love giving and receiving sweet kindnesses. It is generosity of spirit. With that being said, I have noticed that when I meet men, they want to give, give, give. And, often it is to gain favor, to look generous and in the end to capture the attention and attachment of a woman. After the initial phase, the giving stops for no apparent reason. But, I have noticed once the man feels the woman finds them acceptable through their giving, they no longer desire to be the giver but then want to be the receiver and ultimately the controller.

    I am seeing that there is a new paradigm happening where roles are not so important and when we love ourselves first we do not have the need to “hook another ” for our personal gain, but to freely express ourselves as generous, loving spirits. It takes time and discernment to know which is which.

    Conditioned behaviors are slow to change without awareness, desire and inquiry and honesty.

  5. I love to give – but my younger friends say I OBLIGE them to accept – they are uncomfortable being “Showered” as they put it
    I understand – but I still feel more rejected – than protected – they say they are trying to protect me from the “Disease to Please” Can a person be too generous for their own good I wonder



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