We’ve all heard it a million times – “It’s better to give than to receive”, and most women I know have bought into it – wholesale. I could be the poster child (or at least the poster middle-aged woman) for the cause. There is certainly nobility in giving, and I’d be the last person (since Mother Teresa is no longer with us) to stop giving on a daily basis. But – and here’s the catch – giving and never receiving can actually be a selfish act.

Creative Commons by http://www.flickr.com/photos/jamsjoys/

Creative Commons by http://www.flickr.com/photos/jamsjoys/

Selfish? To give and give till you’ve given all you think you have and then dredge up just a bit more? To finish your day exhausted and then nobly wave your weary hand dismissively at any morsel of succor offered? Yup, I stand by my claim – it can be selfish. Now far be it for me to call Mother Teresa selfish, but I think we can safely exclude her from the rest of this discussion and just focus on us mere mortals – we are NOT Mother Teresa.
So how, you may ask, is it possible to be a generous person and still be selfish? (And I’m not referring to hiding the last piece of Godiva Chocolate from your loved ones so you can savor it later – that’s not selfish, that’s just human!) I’m also not saying that everyone who gives is being selfish. This isn’t about giving because it makes you feel good, that’s part of why we give. What I’m referring to is having a highly developed capability to give while your ability to receive is withered like the potted plant you left on the porch in September and then forgot to water until last week (not that I would have any experience with such things). Follow me on this – the act of receiving is a gift to the giver. Let me repeat that:

The Act of Receiving is a Gift to the Giver.

Think of the joy you receive when you help someone. It can be a small act, like letting someone with a screaming child in front of you in the check out line (OK, poor example, that is an inherently selfish act). How about letting a car out into traffic in front of you, calling a friend who has been unwell, or picking out the perfect present for everyone on your Christmas list? Don’t you get the warm fuzzies just thinking about it?

It feels good to give.

By practicing the art of gracefully receiving such gifts yourself, you are allowing the giver to feel those same warm fuzzies. It is generous and kind and good to give, but it can be even more so to receive. Always doing things on your own feels noble, and powerful and exhausting, trust me, I know. But the art of gracefully accepting is also noble, and powerful, and once you get used to it, far less exhausting.

Give it a try. Today, yes – this very day, when someone offers help, accept gracefully, then watch the smile on the face of your helper. You may just learn that receiving can be one of the greatest gift sof all.