To Receive Is To Give

To Receive Is To Give April 14, 2010

Will you let me be your servant, let me be as Christ to you?
Pray that I might have the grace to let you be my servant, too.

We are pilgrims on a journey, we are trav’lers on the road.
We are here to help each other walk the mile and bear the load.

The Servant Song

If you are like me, one of the hardest things to do in this life to ask for help.

To ask for help is to admit that you need help – that you need.

I suffered alone for years with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder because I could not stand the thought of making it known that I was suffering, and needed help. That probably sounds strange to some readers, but I would wager that most of my male readers have some sense of understanding of this.  American men are groomed and propagandized (by a million westerns, war movies, and Arnold Schwarzenegger adventures) to be the Strong, Self-Reliant Ones.

I’d like to be able to honestly write that I came to my senses and got into therapy on my own volition; I can’t, though. It took a room-mate seeing me have my third flashback of the day, and then saying (this is more or less verbatim): “Uh, Matt? Get. In. Fucking. Therapy. Now.” to get me to make the call and schedule an appointment.

I think some version of this attitude is terribly common in American life, and it is destructive of peoples psyches and even of their souls. To fail to ask for help is to deny someone else the joy, the life-giving Grace, of loving you. For love to be strengthened in the world, our job as Christians is to dispose ourselves to both give and receive it.

I have lived in both ghetto and suburb. In my experience, the greatest need in the ghetto is to give love. The greatest need in the suburbs is to be willing to receive it. Both needs go tragically unmet, especially in the suburbs. Both make you vulnerable; both are necessary to God’s plan. It has struck me that getting those two needs (ghetto and suburb) together and talking to one another would surely transform American life for the better.

Sometimes the greatest gift you can give is to allow another to give to you. It takes grace and courage to both give and receive.

St Francis of Assisi tells us that It is in giving that we receive; but it is also true that it is in receiving that we give.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Mark Gordon

    Beautifully said, Matt. You might appreciate this reflection on the same lesson learned. An excerpt:

    “…true Christian humility often means letting other people serve you. It means dropping all pretense of autonomy and power, and embracing the humiliation that comes when our false identities are broken. Dorothy Day wrote that ‘We have all known the long loneliness, and we have found that the answer is community.’ Why ‘community?’ Because community means giving others the chance to be Christ to us when we really need them. It means accepting the limitations of our bodies and our spirits, and embracing our need for one another. It means placing all our trust and finding all our strength in Jesus, as well as those who offer love in His name and for His sake.”

  • Thanks, Mark.

  • David Nickol

    There is a saying in my family: “Don’t be a stingy receiver.” If someone wants to give you something, or do you a favor, or pay you a compliment, accept it graciously.

  • Matt,

    The more I do reading on animals, the more true this message comes. While we most not idealize everything we see done by them (as some do — I believe they can, and do sin), it is also clear, they do learn to be receivers — now if they struggle to achieve it or not, I do not know (and I expect the answer depends upon the species in question).

  • Interesting comment on animals, Henry – one thing I’ve noticed is that humans are strikingly different from other primates in that we are both social (as most primates are) but also prone to resist our social impulses and isolate ourselves.

    I suspect this is an artifact of industrial civilization (or perhaps even civilization, period) and the alienation it brings.

  • “Charity to a hungry poor man is to give him bread. Charity to a well-fed rich man is to ask him for bread.” ~ Simone Weil