Soulful Saturday: When receiving shows more strength than giving

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you desperately need the companionship and support of friends but can’t bring yourself to ask or even tell them that you’re in a bad place? This is one pattern of behavior I’ve honed to an art form. Rather than admit how I feel, I joke. It’s so much easier to make light of things than admit how dark they’ve gotten.

This is a pattern I developed in childhood. I was the oldest child of four born to two 16 year old parents. To say that the folks in our neighborhood were waiting with clucking tongues to see what failures we’d turn out to be would be an understatement. We often needed help – to pay rent, to cover school expenses, to replace clothes and other items lost in a fire. As a result I developed a deep aversion to seeking help because when I needed it in the past, there was a price to pay.

I can clearly remember receiving donations after my family had a serious fire. The nuns who ran my elementary school and the local church had taken up a collection. Rather than let my family determine what we needed, one of the nuns took me and my sister clothes shopping. It was a disaster. She refused to accept that I did not fit into girls’ sized clothing. As a result I ended up with a wardrobe of pants that split the first time I sat down in them. When I tried to explain things to the nun her response was that I should be grateful for the opportunity to get new clothes at all.

I remember when my maternal grandmother died and my mother asked her uncle (her mother’s brother) for a loan to cover the costs of opening the grave site. He refused and Mom borrowed the money from her boss. However her uncle proceeded to tell the rest of the family that he loaned her the money and she never paid him back.

I remember attending events for my father’s side of the family and realizing that we were the poor relations. There were always subtle little comments and attitudes that I sensed. Ways in which we were made to feel inferior. My father’s two sisters both had lovely homes in the suburbs with cars and other “white picket fence” accoutrements. We were often invited to their homes for a weekend but when we invited the cousins to visit us there was a subtle air of horror on my aunts’ expressions as thought we’d suggested some type of ritual sacrifice. The implication was that somehow where we lived and how we lived was beneath their children.

As a result of these experiences, as well as a possible genetic predisposition towards stubbornness and hard-headedness (what my mother likes to call “thickness”), asking for help was not high on our list of family skills. Unfortunately this is not something I’ve felt a need to change. Any “favor” that makes me feel looked down upon tends to raise my hackles.

Why am I bringing all this up? Because I have to assume I’m not the only person suffering from this malady. I seem to have a reduced 6 of Pentacles energy. I don’t mind giving but I hate receiving. I’m starting to realize that being able to ask for help and support is actually a sign of strength, not weakness. It shows that I’m confident enough in who I am to understand accepting aid is a powerful sign of self-confidence. It shows that I can accept assistance because doing so doesn’t make me inferior or weak. It makes me practical with a well-developed, healthy ego. Right now I can’t say that but it’s definitely a work in progress.

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