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Spirituality Essay:

Receiving as Giving    ( February 2006 )

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Valentine's Day has a special meaning for many of us - a wonderful time when thoughts (or memories) of romantic love open our consciousness to wanting more love in our lives . . . .much as New Years induces us to initiate changes we desire.

In Februarys past, I've shared thoughts on this . . . for the deepening of our ability to give and receive love, our second UU "quality of a spiritual life," is something we consciously and unconsciously keep striving for.

Recently the importance of the "receiving" half of the equation showed up in my life. In the abstract, I'd always been aware that love couldn't be given unless it was equally received . . . but actually living that principle was something else.

As it happened, I needed an important favor. I hate asking favors. Lots of reasons come to mind . . . like it shows I'm needy and dependent and somehow (irrationally, I know) "weak", my fear that it'll unbalance our relationship, that I don't want to put others out or put pressure on them, etc.

As I uncomfortably pushed out my request to one of my Men's Group friends, he willingly obliged, but then commented that he too felt uncomfortable asking others for help. We brought this up at our next meeting . . . and found everyone sharing the same feelings: how easy it was . . . enjoyed and welcomed in fact . . . giving help to others in need, but how torturous being the asker. Especially to those just outside our intimate circle. Amazing!

When we avoid asking others for assistance when we need it, we're doing more than isolating ourselves from the comfort of humanity: we're actually depriving those close friends of the opportunity to show their caring and love by giving us their help.

Besides opening that door to their love, our request shows our love for them as well: for we have chosen them - identifying them as someone we trust, someone we're comfortable revealing our needs and, possibly, vulnerability, to -- someone we can allow into our life without upsetting the power balance . . . what a beautiful expression of how much we value them!

No question, asking others' help can be difficult (if it weren't, it would happen more often). Tempering what is asked and from whom must be thought through.

While asking help or favors might be the most obvious way that we create an opportunity to receive anothers' love, it's but one example of how essential our capability for receiving love is for the other who wants to give us their love. Truly, the love they give us can't be any greater than our ability to let them love us.

Our ongoing work of creating a more loving existence really requires equal work on both the giving and receiving sides of the equation. That old maxim, you can't love others till you love yourself seems powerfully wise. Loving yourself more: a nice Valentine's Day gift.

This is one in a series of essays on spirituality by Rick Childs, lay leader of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Mendocino Coast. You may want to:
Read more Spirituality Essays
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