Posted by: Donna Cunningham | February 9, 2011

If I Accept the Gift, Do I Owe the Giver?

©2011 by guest blogger, Amanda Owen

Note: The following is an excerpt from The Power of Receiving: A Revolutionary Approach to Giving Yourself the Life You Want and Deserve (Tarcher/Penguin) by Amanda Owen. If you find yourself giving more than you receive, this book will change the way you think about yourself and your relationships. Based on over twenty years of research into the nature of receptivity and its link to manifestation, The Power of Receiving offers a unique vision for anyone seeking to create greater reciprocity in their relationships and more harmony and abundance in their lives.

 “If I let them buy me lunch, take my child to the fair, give me a gift—what will I owe them?”

Have you ever felt that you will have to do something you don’t want to just because you accepted a gift or help? The concern about creating an obligation is an issue for many people. Here is an example:

 Linda’s husband died after a lingering illness. Although she had limited coping skills for managing the logistics of her life, she frequently turned down invitations from parents of her children’s friends for sleepovers. Having time alone would have been a welcome relief, but feeling unable to reciprocate, she declined these offers.

Would the parents understand her inability to give in return? Knowing her circumstances is probably why the invitations kept coming in the first place! And the truth is, had she been able to receive the gift of time to herself, Linda would have had more energy to give to her own children.

 There are times when it is not possible or even prudent to return a favor. The Random Acts of Kindness movement is all about just this—passing on a kindness to someone other than the one who performed a good deed for you.

 Here are a few questions to consider when someone wants to do something for you:

  • Are you concerned with what someone will think of you if you don’t reciprocate?
  • Are you concerned with what you will think of you if you don’t reciprocate?
  • Do you think most people have ulterior motives when they want to do something for you?
  • Do you feel undeserving of anyone doing something for you?
  • Are you afraid you will have to do something you don’t want to do if you let someone do something for you?

An experienced Receiver does not fear being indebted to a Giver because the gate of giving and receiving swings both ways—receiving sometimes and giving at other times. It is only when you don’t have practice at both, that it is easy to be confused about what your needs and rights are.

 What about you, Readers? Does fear of being indebted to the giver hold you back from receiving?  Share your thoughts in the comment section.

Buy the book here:   The Power of Receiving on Amazon or here: Barnes & Noble

See another excerpt here: Do You Know How to Receive?

See Amanda’s previous article on Skywriter here: Neptune’s Role in Giving and Receiving

About the Author: Amanda Owen’s research during the last twenty years into the nature of receptivity and its link to manifestation led her to develop a system that helps people manifest the lives they want by developing their capacity to receive. She reports her findings in her latest book The Power of Receiving: A Revolutionary Approach to Giving Yourself the Life You Want and Deserve (Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2010) Learn more about Amanda and The Power of Receiving at


  1. Giving with love makes me feel good. When it becomes one sided I have learned to say no.
    It usually flows easily with both giving and receiving. I have noticed that we all have different things we are willing to give and they are often very different.

    The only time this has backfired on me is with one member of the family I have done the most for out of love but there did come a time when I really had a need after surgery and was turned down.That same family member only calls when they want something so that relationship has ended.

  2. Hello Donna,
    Interesting synchronicity. I have been working on the nature of kindness and reciprocity for several months now, as they have constellated for me in reaching a clearer understanding of what is “karma” with respect to chaos/complexity theory and the evolution of consciousness. My acronym for the essence of karma is Kindness and Reciprocity Mutually Antagonistic. This antagonism is based on understanding what Kindness is. I think of “kind”as Kinship In Noetic/Numinous Domains–the concept of the global village or the cosmic community. In other words, when one experiences Oneness, then kindness applies to everyone and the sense of reciprocity is embedded in it, because there is no longer an “other”. This, I feel, is captured in lyrics by Jewel, in her song, God’s Hands. She sings, In the end, only kindness matters. Also, Shakespeare “got it” as in Polonius’ words “a borrower nor a lender be….” in Hamlet. Some anthropologists have studied the concept of reciprocity as it was culturally organized in certain indigenous cultures in such a way that wealth is equally and fairly distributed. There is also a French theologian, whose name escapes me at the moment, who talks about the critical role of closing the container of any group or society (ie. no one can exit) as the main requirement for true reciprocity and justice within that group.

    One last thing, my acronym for working through Karma, is: Keeping A Realistic Mystical Attitude!

  3. Thanks for your comments Adrienne and Judith. This issue of obligation is such a rich area of discussion.

    I have a section in my book I affectionately call “halo removal.” We are bombarded with so many cultural messages about what it means to be a “good person.” I feel that these can interfere with making choices about where we want to place our boundaries. I have an exercise called ‘Send Cinderella to Rehab’ to address some of these issues. In astrology, Neptune’s relationship with Saturn can show an intersection between the societal and the spiritual and how these messages can get help or hinder.

    • Thanks for joining in, Amanda. The fear of being indebted to the giver is a huge one for me–and a big factor in my being fiercely independent.

      A number of years ago, I was placed in a position of having to accept lots of help from rather a lot of people, as I was deeply disabled during a long period of needing hip replacement and not having insurance coverage. The pain and inflammation became so bad I couldn’t even change my own sheets.

      The only way I could really reconcile accepting help from others was to make it a win/win situation for all concerned. I expressed gratitude gracioiusly, and I gave back with services of my own that I could still perform despite the pain. I repaid them as swiftly as I could after the surgeries. I am hoping the karma is already balanced, as I would make a terrible caretaker. Donna

  4. Wow – things come when you need them! I’ve always considered myself to be generous – once a gift is given, it’s not mine anymore and I let it go. But not too long ago, I had to realise that I was giving to people and thinking of it as a bargain. Sort of; now I’ve given you this or done this for you, so now you can’t ask me for anything. I didn’t want anything in return, except to be left alone, and that wasn’t very generous. (I have Sat sq

    • Sorry, my computer is not cooperating with me today … (What I was going to say was I have Sat sq Nept, and Nept in 12th). I had a reading done by Ellen at astro4business, and she adviced me to give something to myself everyday to open the flow, sort of- which is really hard! Just to learn how to receive.

  5. When I was much younger, the whole concept of spiritually healthy giving and receiving was foreign to me. It wasn’t so much that I was afraid of being indebted, as it was that I felt undeserving of receiving. I’ve also always had a hard time asking for help since even when I did, it wasn’t forthcoming. I was taught I had to earn everything and that I shouldn’t rely on anyone else for help (8th house South Node in Aries = total self-reliance – bleh!)

    Giving comes naturally to me, although at this point in my life I love receiving as well, and am always grateful when I know it comes from a loving place, with no strings attached. There are times when I know my giving will never be reciprocated and that’s okay too. But in ongoing personal relationships, I’m not at all attracted to stingy types. I’ve learned to appreciate the natural flow of giving and receiving that takes place in healthy relationships. I’m most drawn to those who are able to truly appreciate the value in a thoughtful gift or deed, just as they experience joy in giving. If I start to feel used or taken for granted, then I know something’s not right; also if I sense it’s not okay to need help occasionally, as in “fair weather friends”.

    You’re right Amanda, in that there’s a completely separate category of giving. Long before it became popular, I was practicing “random acts of kindness”, but generally TRY not to talk about them since I don’t want it to be about me (“Give your gifts in secret, and your Father who sees everything will reward you.”) There’s no better feeling than helping someone – often a complete stranger – who genuinely benefits from a spontaneous act of kindness. We’re all connected and in recognizing/respecting the vulnerability (and humanity) in another, we honor our own divine connection. BTW, I’m not talking about enabling.

    I remember once as a kid, standing on a busy street corner, trying to get bus fare to get home. I think I’d lost my money and it was getting dark and rainy and I was scared; it took a lot for me to even ask for help. I’ll never forget how many people passed me by until finally one kind soul gave me the exact change for the bus. Such a small thing, but it meant so much.

  6. In the past I had trouble giving, because (I discovered) that I was afraid of being rejected along with the gift.

    Anything I ever did or gave my mother (Moon conjunct Neptune in fifth house) was rejected by her. (Not what she wanted, not good enough, not enough)

    Recently and experience where someone accepted my gift but also accepted me. I can now give and not be attached the out come.

    Now, how can I win the lottery!

    • So, demeaning, to have your mother reject your gifts as not good enough. She was clearly unable to recieve–it had nothing to do with you! Donna

      • Thanks Donna, it has taken a lot of ‘growing up’ to realize that and let it pass. Always need to be aware of those old patterns that sneak into our lives unnoticed.

        That’s where I find astrology so very helpful.

        Thanks for the great discussions and wonderful, thoughtful articles.

  7. Venus square or opposite Moon comes to mind with the uncertainty in sensing and feeling when one is giving enough or over-doing it.

  8. The lessons of obligation and generosity operate on both sides of the equation. For example, the obligation of giving when a relative is not self-sufficient and has no one to turn to but you has its own learning curve, and uncomfortable feelings.

  9. Last week I was reminded of a beautiful story about Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, the very wise expert on death and dying, who later became very interested in reincarnation. Her mother was a fiercely independent person who was always giving to others but refused to accept help from anyone else. She was terrified of becoming incapacitated at the end of her life. Because Kubler-Ross was a physician and had access to drugs, her mother asked her to promise she would end her mother’s life if her mother ever became incapacitated. Kubler-Ross was not willing to make this promise, and her mother did become incapacitated during the last few years of her life. K-R cared for her needs during that time, but felt guilty about not honoring her mother’s request until she spoke to someone who pointed out that her mother had a karmic need to gain balance for her soul by accepting the help she was so generous about giving to other people. She was able to achieve this karmic balance at the end of her life instead of having to be reborn as an invalid who would need a lifetime of care by other people. It’s a sweet story, I think, and a reminder that some things that seem like burdens are really gifts.

    • Fascinating story, Margaret. She is one of my heroes, though I suspect she might not have been easy to contend with. If I recall correctly, she has a Sun-Moon-Pluto conjunction in Cancer. Donna

      • This story unsettled me. It sounds like subconsciously KR was attempting to control her mother. As for rationalizing her behavoiur as an improvement of her mother’s karma, I do not believe anyone has the right to judge the ‘needs’ of another soul’s evolution.

  10. This is such an important part of what makes us human, and has to do so much with relationships. It can bring us closer o ‘drag us’ closer.

    And is a beautiful lesson I’ve learned since I moved to this country. That both ends, giving and receiving, should be experienced equally, with openness, joy (or at least patience) and gratitude, and both need the same amount of humility…and what makes all the difference is the attitude. I’m sure all of us who have strong Outer Planets have learned early to detect that.
    But if I learn to give gracefully and thoughtfully and then let go, the other won’t feel an attachment (not sure I used the expression correctly here), and will be free to ‘restore the balance’ at the right time, with the right person.

    p.s this reminded me of Brenne Brown and her thoughts on vulnerability. The youtube video has being circulating the web, yesterday I saw Auntie Moon posted it 🙂

  11. I have recently been gifted with another opportunity to ask for what I need. The relationships I develop by being an on-line blogger opens up that two way swinging door you refer to Amanda. “If you don’t have equal practice with both …” I have Saturn on top of my Natal Libra in the 9th House, and my philosophy about fair practice is being tested.

    Coming from a history of alcoholic parenting, the give and take instincts are very much in atrophe. Time has made me practice, and recently I learned that taking because it’s there isn’t a good reason to keep giving without contribution. Saturn is a long-term character building and I’m grateful for the many new lessons, and what a change in attitude I have for Old Mister Time. That must come from being older myself.

    • I really like your comment Mokihana.

      And “a philosophy about fair practice being tested” is as good a description as I’ve heard for Saturn conjuncting a 9th house Libra Sun 🙂 I think that when we have practice in both giving and receiving, we are more aware when a lack of reciprocity exists. That awareness leads us to make decisions that can include healthier, more thoughtful boundaries.

      When alcoholism or other chaos-producing circumstances are in the early environment, it is such a process of discovery to determine where we want to place those boundary-lines.

      Astrologically, I think it about figuring out the relationship between Saturn and Neptune so that boundaries are firm yet fluid.

  12. I relate to what LB said … I think I had a hard time receiving b/c of some messed-up feeling of not deserving it. I don’t think it ever had to do with indebtedness. I give quite freely and never with any thought of what I’ll get back so it doesn’t occur to me that someone offering something would want something in return (except for the creeps you can just tell they’re out for something else – disingenuous giving I can spot a mile away).
    When it finally dawned on me that if everyone, like me, rejected giving, I would be robbed of one of the most wonderful experiences (because I would no longer be able to give), I started to ‘allow’ myself to receive. I realised how selfish it was to not receive what someone is offering and that helped me to break my pattern.

  13. The opening question of your article brought back an awful memory, Amanda. When I accepted a position at Fordham University, Graduate School of Business, one of the first pieces of advice that I was given was “It’s all about favors. You do a favor for someone and they’ll do a favor for you.” It was horribly distasteful to me at the time and brings seems even grosser now. And, I have to say, it was the most dysfunctional place I have ever worked. Oh, the stories I could tell!

    • Hi CJ
      Wow, a very interesting experience. If I was going to reframe the “Do a favor to get a favor,” I would say that when we are helpful to others, they are often, although not always, helpful to us. It’s a good example of how intention plays a role in both how we give and receive.

  14. Hi Amanda, Donna, I would like to post about my experiences regarding give and take before I read your neptune post. I have a very active and engaged neptune• and it is angular to boot so answering before reading will give greater accuracy. From a very early age I was an active indulger in magical thinking because my thoughts did seem to bring me things and situations. I did not know I was supposed to give back, not really, as i thought that if someone wanted something they need only wish it. Childish as it was it seemed everyone could do it so I never worried about it. I would give away things with not much thought because of this too and my mother had, on a number of occasions, to retrieve a given toy from a neighbor that I had given to that neighbors’ child. I was taught I should hoard the things given me as gifts and such although it always brought me inner shame to do so. It was if if I hoarded a thing it meant the magic did not work. This was a general inner conflict of my youth and I learned to hide any giving (and receiving) I did and reported many things as “lost” or “found” instead. On my own now so many decades later my experience is much unchanged except I no no longer feel that shame and just let things loose into and take out from the general pool of abundance without much thought. I don’t bother and never did bother to “keep score”.
    •neptune (conj ven, sq jup/ur/vertx, sext pluto, conj midH, sext asc, sqr chir, and aspecting few asteroids too)

    • A very, very interesting perspective, Uhane. It makes me think. I have a very strong manifestation mojo–I have only to conclude that I need or want something, and it materializes quckily and is either free or at the price I can afford. IF I am not ambivalent, which is the tricky part. Luckily, at my age, there are very few things I really want or need, as I choose to live simply and modestly.

      But you make me wonder if I could manifest for others as easily as I do for myself. It seems like there would be all manner of complications, not the least of which is karmic complications and those sort of tricky “be careful what you wish for; you might just get it” outcomes. Donna

      • Hi Donna, My experience with the “other” is that there is no way for me to know what that “other” is craving, no matter what they say. I have seen some bang their heads against a wall asking franticly that the headaches to go away.

    • Isn’t it interesting to see what happens when giving – or receiving – is contaminated by “shoulds.” I’ll be interested in reading your comments after you read the Neptune post.

      • Hi Amanda, Oddly enough, my post would have been very close to the one I did post. I might have emphasized more the fact that neptune does not experience sacrifice as such but as a byproduct of an unalloyed urge to merge. I believe it shares the quality with mercury of acting as a sort of soy protein that takes on the texture and flavour of what ever one mixes it with, vis a vi aspects and other chart modifiers. So for us pluto sex nep folks the give and take would have that “what have you done for me lately”, “look at all I’ve gone for you” flavour unless otherwise modified further by associative aspects in the chart. As for my chart as you read above it operates in a sort of amorphus kaleidoscope of both positive and negatively charged atoms of desire spanning a number of houses and planets. One of the greatest challenges I face is deciding WHAT I wanted, knowing only that I don’t want it all.
        The Abraham- Hicks material and Liz Green’s excellent recent book “Neptune” are great tools to have in my toolbox. They give me a lens with which to focus all the fuzziness in my chart.

  15. When I was younger I had a boyfriend who seemed very nice and obliging and would always say yes if anything was asked of him. It came as a bit of a shock one day when he had a tantrum because he had asked something of me and I had said no.

    I realised that this was his way of controlling his world and the people in his life. If he always said yes, then he assumed this meant others had to say yes to him. He could never ask a question straight out either but would say, I need you to get me some …. whatever.

    The relationship didn’t last long, but it did make me sensitive to the importance of asking clearly and being unattached to any particular response. As the non-violent communication teachings say, the difference between a request and a demand is often only apparent if someone says no.

    • An addendum to this story: my current beloved partner will almost always say no if I ask him to do anything – this annoyed me at first, but then I realised if I just left it, 95% of the time he would end up doing the thing I had asked him to do. It is as if he needs to have his ‘no’ respected and accepted and then he can choose to act out the yes.

    • My goodness, we are all delving deeply into the question of giving and receiving, very productive discussion. Amanda, is this typical of the level of work and range of topics when you do your workshops or client work around this question? Donna

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