Sunday, March 24, 2013

You Can't Always Be The Superhero

Today I received one of the best pieces of advice ever. From my mom, no less.

"Maybe you have to learn to receive."

I come from circles where great emphasis is placed on giving. Giving cheerfully, giving sacrificially, giving lovingly. And this, no doubt, is incredibly important. In fact, giving is one of those things that has been ingrained in my DNA — the desire to pour out my life and resources for others has always been dear to me.

But perhaps I've forgotten how to receive. Maybe it's the paiseh Asian part of me; or maybe I just dislike having people go out of their way to help me; or it could be any other reason. But whatever it is, I don't receive as freely as I give.

Here, the words I live by are: It is better to give than to receive. Yet admittedly, sometimes I think I live by a twisted form of the saying: It is badder to receive than to give.

But that's a wrong understanding of the saying. It isn't bad to receive. In fact, it's good. (After all, if everyone refused to receive, would giving even be possible?) It's just that it's better to give than to receive. But that doesn't make receiving bad at all.

I remember that when I was in JS, Uncle Herbie used to teach us to receive graciously, and with a thankful heart. That made sense to me.

And lately, I have been learning this lesson through my own experiences. Where I used to be the one giving academic help to friends who needed it; I now receive help from extremely long-suffering and patient friends. Where I used to be the so-called 'heroine' to people in trouble; I now let others be my heroes and heroines. Where I used to be the one to tend to hurting and crushed comrades, I now receive the most incredible empathy and comfort from friends.

Perhaps, just perhaps — where giving is an exercise in generosity; receiving becomes a lesson in humility.

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