Posted by: Donna Cunningham | December 14, 2013

It’s the Season for Receiving. How Willing Are You to Let Someone Give to You?

Donna says: The following is an excerpt from Amanda Owen’s forthcoming book Born to Receive: 7 Powerful Steps Women Can Take Today to Reclaim Their Half of the Universe. (Tarcher/Penguin, 2014).  Thanks to what I learned from Amanda’s earlier book, The Power of Receiving, I was happy to accept a complimentary copy of the new one. 

I was glad I did. It’s as powerfully  helpful and easy to read as her earlier book.  So many people–myself included–are good at giving to others but find it uncomfortable to be on the receiving end.  This excerpt from Born to Receive is printed here with the permission.  Please contact Amanda before reprinting it elsewhere.


(c)2013, A Guest Post by Amanda Owen

Do you ask for help only after you have exhausted what you can do by yourself? You are not alone. In our pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps society, asking for help is, for many people, a last resort option. Yet, while you may feel it is undignified to ask a fellow human being for help, do you feel perfectly comfortable asking God, the Universe, or a Higher Power for help?

Perhaps we should designate one day of the week as “Ask a Mortal Day” so that we remember that we are all in this together and that being helped is as natural and as important as helping others.

Receive2-cvrThe reality is that people perform tasks that help you every day. They pour your coffee, bag your groceries, give inspiring sermons, educate you, cook your meals, sew the clothes you wear, and make the products you use, to name only a few. But sometimes you need to ask for what you need or want because others don’t anticipate your needs, or they don’t know how to help, or they don’t want to help.

 Reluctance to ask for what you want contaminates your ability to give. This is because the giver and the receiver are a team. Every act of giving has a recipient—the person who receives what is given. When one member of the team is not healthy, the other is not either.

 When you think about it, how do you really feel about the person you are helping if you have such a dim opinion about being helped yourself? And why do so many of us look the other way when we walk past people in obvious need and call the individual who stops to help a hero?

 The reality is that everybody at some time will be in a situation where they need help, whether due to a natural disaster, an illness, a loss of mobility due to aging, or for countless other reasons. It’s a shame that in addition to needing help, people are distressed by having to rely on someone other than themselves. They are twice traumatized—first by needing help and then by receiving it.

NOTE: Goodreads is giving away 10 copies of “Born to Receive” in a drawing that ends on Tuesday, December 17th . Read about it here: Goodreads “Born to Receive” Giveaway.

READERS: Are you one of the people who give willingly, yet squirm when someone tries to do something for you?  What gets in the way?  Pride? A reluctance to appear needy? A feeling that you don’t deserve it?  Share your insights in the comment section below this post.

About the Author: Amanda Owen is the author of The Power of Receiving: A Revolutionary Approach to Giving Yourself the Life You Want and Deserve (Tarcher/Penguin, 2011) and the forthcoming Born to Receive: 7 Powerful Steps Women Can Take Today to Reclaim Their Half of the Universe. (Tarcher/Penguin, 2014)  Both books can be ordered at these links.

With a background in social work and a twenty-five year practice as a counselor and consultant, Amanda has been presenting lectures and workshops since the mid-eighties. Visit her site at: Amanda Owen.

N.Y. Times best-selling author Christiane Northrup, MD calls Amanda’s power-of-receiving philosophy “brilliant, elegant, profound, and enormously practical,” Maria Shriver calls her work “insightful,” and Elaine Shamos, the Director of The Women’s HealthResourceCenter at Dartmouth-HitchcockMedicalCenter.


  1. Thanks for the info, Donna! I headed right over to Goodreads to enter the drawing. The giving/receiving, helping/being helped dichotomy has always been a challenge for me. In my natal chart, Capricorn Sun says “I must be responsible and do my part”, Aries Moon says “Always paddle your own canoe” and the 1st/7th house nodal axis (with North node in Aries) has always given me plenty of opportunities to be self-sufficient.

    Because I grew up in a poor but proud family, I was always well-served by these attributes. My mom was a super-volunteer, and my dad was always quoting the old canard “I cried because I had no shoes until I met the man who had no feet.” When I married a man from a relatively well-off family, and discovered that his mom thought I was a golddigger, I made him promise we would never take any help from them. “Not even if we are stranded in the desert and they have the only canteen!” My Aries moon felt really good saying that.

    But now that I have kids, I am trying to learn how to receive so that I can teach them a healthier way to be. After all, what kind of parent would deny their children a sip of water in the desert? The problem is, after twenty years of independent pride, the grandparents don’t even offer anymore. So I have some serious work to do. Or maybe I just need to step back and get out of the way.

    Either way, this post has given me pause for thought. Thank you again, and Happy Holidays!


  2. Thank you. Very timely. “Reluctance to ask for what you want contaminates your ability to give”. I never saw it that way and it makes oh, so much sense! I had to ask for help the lasts few days (and months actually) because there was no way I could keep up. My 9° cardinal moon has been under considerable pressure. Interestingly, the great women that have been there with me all have some strong cardinal elements in their charts. Receiving is hard for me. Especially the last few years. When my first child was born I understood I could not count with my mom and it took me a loooong time to recover from that.

  3. Thank you Donna for posting this and thank you Mary for your thoughtful response. When people stop trying to give because they give up, (I’ve been there), you can always renew the connection. Mary, it sounds like at this point in your life you understand the value of receiving. I have a saying: “Want, ask, receive.” It’s an easy way to think of balancing your giving with receiving. The truth is, when you open up to receive, miracles occur.

  4. Hello Donna, Last month I wrote a Christmas tale on exactly that subject. If it is not too long, here it is.

    It was a cold December night. The good old tenor was sitting in his apartment on the 11th floor in Berlin overlooking the city’s snow-covered roofs. The windows all faced south, so even if he could see very far, it would have been impossible to see all the way to his old viking country, where his huge family, friends and colleagues lived. It was hot enough in the flat and he had absolutely found so many good new friends in Berlin, yet he still loved all those that he had known for a such a long time, and suddenly they all seemed very far away.

    Instead of looking outside, he tried look inside, and behold, in his heart they were all with him, as alive as if they were sitting in the room with him. Even his dear old grandmother who had passed on long ago, was sitting there smiling at him. He was filled by a warm quiet feeling, happily greeting all his dear ones as they appeared to him. In the quiet, he heard the most enchanting sound of crisp male voices. He focused in on the sound of his inner channel a bit more and realized that it was nothing less than the great Christmas Medley from Three Tenors, the group that he had left when he travelled abroad, and which had gone dormant.

    The various pieces in the medley were, he thought, at the same time some the most beautiful and funniest pieces of music, that he had ever had the pleasure of singing. The smooth voices cheekily touched each other in close unexpected harmonies, swinging away from each other, at certain times ethereally calm, at others fast and joyful, and in selected places spiced with strong masculine testosterone. The familiar Christmas pieces followed each other and he chuckled at the audience’s joy of being surprised by something they knew so well, heard in a totally unexpected context. When the three voices at last met up in a warm triad, the audience burst into enthusiastic all-encompassing applause. Now it really felt like Christmas!

    Ah, Christmas, the good old tenor thought, the time when so many hearts are longing. All year long, you can shut so many emotions away, but when that first Advent candle is lit, the inner child insists on coming out to play. Yet how often is it disappointed. Even worse, some people shut the inner child out in particularly harsh ways, expecting nothing but sorrow and conflict in this sweet time. The tenor himself had always felt happiest when he was able to sing his way through the entire Christmas season. The songs, the texts and the music were for him the essence of Christmas joy.

    His thoughts flowed on and he found himself thinking of times past here in Berlin. So much had happened. A long time of sickness had finally ended, his physical energy had returned and he almost burst with joy of life and wanting to work and create. Though he never wanted to live through it again, in a strange way he was filled with gratitude for the time that he had been ill. ”Only a coward dares not ask for help!” he had read somewhere, and this sentence had filled him from the first with wonder and then with claríty. If, because of fear of rejection, he refused to ask other people for help, did not dare open his heart to his nearest and dearest, then he was indeed like a sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal.

    His finest hours had always come when he was helping others, something which had always come very easily to him. So why should it be so different to ask for help himself. He had thought to himself, oh well, you good old tenor, you have always loved to play; let’s play a game. Let’s turn it all around and say that perhaps every time you found joy in helping others, finding your most beautiful sides, your charity and compassion, perhaps you were helping yourself as well. Now help them by letting them help you… How funny, he thought. Let me begin with requests for small things; then if the answer is no, I won’t be so upset that I just give up. And I’m not really asking for all that much. Sometimes it’s enough just to know that those that I love are thinking of me and sending good vishes.

    But… if I am going to be weak and on disability insurance, with no extra money for a long time, I will actually need practical help as well. How can you ask friends for financial help when you’re not sure when, or even if, you’ll be able to pay them back, he asked himself, shivering. Well, listen, how did you respond in the past when your friends asked for similar things? You never gave more than you were prepared to lose, and besides, your friends were always more important to you than money. Maybe when you ask them, they’ll feel the same way. So he did ask here and there, about this and that. Many said yes, some said no, which was exactly as it should be, he also himself sometimes said no, if he thought his friends were asking for something inappropriate, or if he himself were not willing or able to grant their request. So, it actually was as easy as that. How strange. In this way he played his way through his sickness, and rejoiced in all the people whom, by helping him, were also helping themselves.

    Actually, it felt quite a bit better to be fit and healthy. There were so many other ways of having fun. And then in a flash it came to him what he wanted to do: I shall start a new ensemble and write a Christmas Oratorio. Our Chrismas medley will be the starting point and the rest will fall into place. I’ll help others and they’ll help me in return; I shall write texts and poems and sing with good colleagues, which I’ll find somehow. How wonderful! What a party! He laughted to himself.That’s it: my Christmas Oratorio shall be called What A Party. And all through the springtime, he came up with ideas and shared them with the wisest and warmest heads and hearts of Berlin. Will you help me? He asked writers, preachers, publishers, graphic artists, photographers, composers; they all thought about it, and they all said yes. Nobody got paid anything, but what a party they had doing it! That way will work only this year he thought, but this year it will!

    He had been sick; in fact, he was still carrying a chronic disease that they called HIV. Though he had had it for nearly 30 years, he usually didn’t think about it all that much, but he certainly could remember how sad he had once been. In those dark hours, when he hadn’t been able cope as well as he did now, he had found so much comfort in music. And he certainly knew that for many others it was much harder to deal with than it was now for himself. If this new disease, Hepatitis C, – a liver disease which reminded him so much of AIDS in the bad old days, and which had finally left his system – if this disease should have any meaning for me, he thought, it will help me even more to help others who carry more sorrow and fear in their hearts than usual during the Christmas season.

    He planned it so that What A Party should have its World Premiere on World AIDS Day itself, which in this year would also be the first Sunday of Advent, the festival of candles. In the Marienkirche in Berlin. All income would go to the Church’s volunatary AIDS work. Following this, they would continue on to do three performances in Copenhagen where 20% of the proceeds would go the the work of the Danish AIDS Foundation. Then he also organised a secular Christmas Party Concert for those who didn’t feel comfortable celebrating at their homes. ”Celebrate Christmas with your logical family before your biological one demands your attendance ” was his slogan for this concert. Entrance will be cheap, but here everything we make there will go back to ourselves. In that way we on a whole donate ourselves what is suitable, and maybe someday soon I’ll even be able to pay my bills myself.

    He didn’t recruit the other performers so much as letting them come to him. An American countertenor; a Greek baritone; a German accordionist, composer, arranger and singer: good-natured guys full of music with hearts in the right place: from all corners of the world they had all ended up together here in Berlin. An artist friend of his mother’s had given him a piece of her art, a watercolor of four singing golden birds. The Golden Birds. Die Goldvögel: that will be our name, he said to himself. There was no other group with such a name in Germany. But he found a novel by a young writer named David Perteck entitled In the Magical Circle of the Demons, in which the Golden Birds were the most powerful fighters against the forces of evil. What could be more appropriate, he thought, since that’s exactly what our singing is all about.

    Laugther and tears are both stored in the diaphragm. On the way to our hearts we gently touch and caress those feelings within ourselves and from thence to our audience as well. Another idea came to him What A Party we call it. There is a Danish song, called What a Party. He found out that in German it was called Schöne Maid and that the tune really was a Tahitian folk melody. I’ll write a new text, make it into a crazy hymn. He laughed again. Pure nonsense is like pure champagne. And he wrote.

    • Thanks, Mads–a richly vivid piece that packs so much of a life into a short story. Donna

  5. I have to chime in and say don’t forget, men often have this problem as well.

    • I think even more so sometimes, Jack, because it’s often so hard for then to admit that they need anything remotely resembling help from others. Donna

  6. Yes, I agree that men have difficulty receiving, as well. I wrote my first book “The Power of Receiving” for both men and women.

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