Giving and receiving are the breathing out and in of loving. Love itself is always a gift, freely offered. Love cannot be demanded or coerced or purchased into being offered. Intimidation or bribery may propel another to pretend to love, but not the other’s heart to love. Love’s fountain in the heart springs forth only in freedom unafraid, and desire unforced. Sympathy or pity may be elicited by evidence of need or misfortune, but these must not confused with love.
It is best to receive the gift of love like a child: freely, fully, openly and without restraint or suspicion of the giver’s ulterior motives. It gets more difficult to reach our hearts as adults, after we’ve learned more to doubt than believe others. Yet if we are going to err about the motives of another, is it better to err on the side of believing or of doubting? Though we must exercise discernment, we live better, happier lives trusting than distrusting.
Which is more difficult for you, to give or to receive gifts, especially gifts of love? To be healthy and fully functioning, you need to do both equally well. Giving and receiving are inseparably bound. As I wrote years ago:
“You give the most when you do not know you are giving. And the greatest gift of all is to share your life with others. You are yourself the gift they need.
“Many give only to themselves. And from their fear of emptiness they shall find no rest. Others give, but in gestures. What would happen if Life gave that way? And what are we to others but Life’s emissaries?
“If giving is not its own reward you are not giving. And if you seek to be thanked for your gift, then give only to your friends. A stranger may not know how to thank you.
“The greatest givers go unnoticed. For them it is a way of life.
“A true gift is one which does not have to be given. If you must give, then don’t call it a gift; call it a purchase. Do not demand gifts. When you pressure you deny your need to be given, and the need of the giver to express love.
“Many seek to be worthy before receiving. But who is deserving of the gift of life? What in life waits to be praiseworthy before receiving? And does not need itself grant worth?
“Others would receive only if they may give also. Yet what do they accept but obligation? They would turn spontaneity into ritual, and giving into agreement. Whoever cannot accept gifts cannot accept love.
“Many speak of the giver as one who has, and of the receiver as one in need. Yet is it not also the giver who is in need, and the receiver who has? The giver is also a receiver; the given is also a giver.”
We need to be both good givers and gracious receivers. Otherwise love cannot fulfill itself, nor can we attain life satisfaction. While we will derive greater fulfillment from giving than receiving, to decline receiving is to deny others their chance to be givers.