By Sheena McKinney, Executive Assistant to President, Matt Heinz at Heinz Marketing

Everyone knows “It’s better to give than receive” and few would disagree (especially when you know who originated that phrase).

As I write this, my amazing dad is very near death.  In his life he gave and gave and gave.  Of the resources he gave, they were not usually monetary, but he was a very wealthy man in every other way.

He told me once, “As long as I’m sucking in air, I’ll help people”.  Among the many sad and difficult things about watching him fade physically and mentally was seeing the struggle he felt that he couldn’t help any more.  He agonized when he saw my mom come in carrying bags and he couldn’t help.  It really killed him.  I tried to reassure him with “Dad, you worked really hard your whole life and did things for everyone and their brother (and their dog).  It’s OK to rest now”.  It was hard for him to receive… both the words and the meaning.

My mom is just as bad.  When I ask if I can help, she turns me down every time.  Not surprisingly, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

I’m learning just because it’s better to give than receive doesn’t mean we should shun receiving. To shun receiving is to shun the giver… potentially.  At a minimum we rob the giver of the joy of giving.

Receiving … it’s actually a bit of a problem for some people.  You know who you are.  It seems to be rampant in my entire family.  I became aware of this recently when my visiting, adult nieces were bending over backwards with words and gifts for their stay at my house.  They felt like they were putting me out (not true at all).  They thanked me profusely and emphatically and repeatedly.  It is not a bad thing to be grateful (not at all), but it seemed like they sincerely lacked the ability to understand and know that I was truly very happy to host them … they suck at receiving and I can see why—it’s the way we were raised.

One of the best ways to be a better receiver is not to think of it as “taking”.  Think of it from the givers’ viewpoint.  When you give to others, in whatever way that is, you (hopefully) do it willingly and happily.  Yes, giving is sometimes sacrificial and hard too.  But when someone offers to help or give, think twice about refusing it.  Receive graciously.  Say “thank you”.  Resist the temptation to automatically give (or resolve to give) right back too. This receiving muscle, if atrophied, will take time to build.  And like the muscles in our body, when there is a lack of balance– pain or weakness (like burn out, among other things) can result.

Why is receiving so hard?

It depends.  Does receiving make you feel vulnerable, out of control?  Do you feel unworthy of it? Does it make you feel indebted, make you look weak?  Maybe it has a lot to do with how giving and receiving was modeled for you.   If you’re up for some soul searching, check out Yong Kang (best known as Nerdy Creator) and his articles How to Receive Help when It’s Uncomfortable  and Why Are Giving and Receiving Important to Your Growth?

I can relate to Erin in her article, Do You Have Trouble Accepting Help? where she describes herself as an “I don’t need any help” person.  But I’m working on it.

My husband appreciates my can-do attitude and self sufficient ways, but in my effort to grow in this area, it’s honestly been transformative to see how being receptive to him, his words, and actions has deepened our relationship.

When I arrive at the Heinz Marketing headquarters door with loads of things in my arms for our snack bar or the next team celebration, my generous co-workers often offer to help.  I’m thinking “That’s, OK, I got this!”  but now I say, “Sure, thank you so much!”.  I’m pretty sure they feel good.  I feel good too– less and less squeamishly.

When my very giving boss, Matt Heinz, gives me credit in front of my teammates, instead of minimizing it (out loud or internally), I try to soak it in.  I receive it.  Is it always comfortable?  No.

As I say goodbye to my dad, I want so badly to give back to him somehow for how much he gave me but he can’t receive it now. What he would want me to do is pay it forward and so I will.  I’ll keep giving like he did but I’ll also keep working on receiving too.  My mom, though it’s really, really hard, is learning to receive and ask for help during this really, difficult time too.  I’m so proud of her for asking for help and letting us love her through this.

Flex your giving muscles often, but don’t forget the receiving end!