Have you ever thought that you are the best friend you know? Are you the most responsible, caring, compassionate, shoulder-to-cry-on kind of friend who drops everything to be there for the people you love? Have you ever wished for a friend like yourself?
I used to think that. Although I so adored the people in my life, there were times when I felt some of the things I did for them were under-appreciated. When I had problems in my own life, when I needed someone to know just what could make ME feel better, I felt empty handed. Sounding familiar?
I was a doer, a giver, I needed to be needed. I set my life up so that I was the go-to person for all of my people. I was the Olivia Pope of my world. Even when I moved to a different state, within months I was a person anyone who knew me could count on. I constructed a safety net for everyone else, and then my own life turned upside down.
Even after illness set in, things did not change. In fact, I felt that no one had a grasp of anything I was going through. For the first time in my life, I was desperate for some care from others and it did not seem that anyone knew what to say or what to do for me. Looking back, some people were generous and a few did reach out to me; however, having never learned how to ask for help or knowing how to recognize a gift of compassion, I was too prideful at the time to see when it was actually happening. I was so programmed to say, “No thanks” and “I’m fine” when there were people who were really trying to help me out. I did not fully learn the gift of receiving until later on.
Sometimes tragedy is like this. The harder things get, the more clarity we can find.
You get so used to being self-reliant and so needed by others for so long that when it is time to accept a gift from another, it is like a foreign object that you naturally repel.
People who cared about me wanted to help me but I usually shut them down. There were those who never knew what exactly to do or say, but they tried to be there. I know now that those who stick around in uncomfortable times are keepers. Also, letting loved ones know how exactly they can help you makes THEM feel less powerless. It’s like when your husband/boyfriend/children try to help on cleaning day: if you give your loved ones specifics, they will learn how to better help with your complex needs. And mind-reading doesn’t count, ladies.
Receiving help and asking for what you need is a humbling experience. It’s lovely to help others but it’s humiliating when you need help yourself. That is the first thing I had to try to accept. You will have anger about it…try not to take it out on those giving to you. Don’t say things like, “I’m sorry you have to do this for me,” or “you will really get tired of helping me,” or “I can tell you don’t want to be doing that for me.” Don’t critique their attitude, or predict future resentments. Instead, say “thank you.” Your appreciation makes them feel positive about being helpful. You already know how good it feels to do for others, right? Learn to be a gracious receiver.
Don’t be too good- or not good enough to accept the very thing you do all the time for other people. It has taken me a while to learn that lesson. I am still learning… Those who give of themselves are always teaching me to be humble.
I had to consider why my life had always revolved around being helpful, yet I could not receive help offered to me. To top it off, I was too prideful to ask for help. When I was finally able to say “thank you” and mean it from the bottom of my heart without resentment, anger, shame or fear: gratitude swept over me and lit up everyone in my life like Christmas lights.
Before, giving and being needed was how I defined myself. Learning to receive showed me the love everyone around me had to offer. This lesson has been such a challenge; I am still learning to receive and to appreciate the blessings in my life, but the gift of gratitude has been a life-changing lesson. I believe learning to receive with a grateful heart makes a person a more understanding, more compassionate giver.
People love you and are there for you, too. Maybe not in the way you want them to be, but they might be exactly what YOU need. You are worthy of their love and their help. Please don’t miss out on receiving the gifts God is sending your way.