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Life Struggles / Seeking Happiness

What Happens When the Act of Giving and Receiving is Blocked?

“Thank you for the gift, but I can’t keep it.”

My mom, circa 2002

When it comes to gift giving, the words above (specifically, I can’t keep it) may be ones you’ve heard before.

Apparently not accepting a gift is more common than I had known before this moment.

Why do some struggle to receive gifts while others seem to always get things? It’s an interesting concept, but let’s first talk about the act of giving and receiving…

Giving and Receiving

Alright, you are likely aware of the basics of giving and receiving.

You understand giving is the act of providing love, emotional support, or a physical gift.

Just as you recognize that receiving involves being given or presented with emotional support or a physical object, such as someone being there in a time of need or in the form of a gift.

Anyone who has ever celebrated a birthday or holiday where gifts are involved understands the very elemental components of what we are talking about.

In fact, as kids, we inherently understand the practice of giving and receiving. Have you ever watched a toddler try to feed their caregiver a Cheerio while eating? It is so precious to witness! Uh, yea… it can also a little cringy when the kid tries to feed you a Cheerio they’ve already licked. LOL

But, there is more to this concept. The way we give and/or receive definitely plays a role in a greater part of our life. Read on to learn more about what I mean.   

Giving with an arrow to receiving and an arrow back up to giving to demonstrate the relationship between the two components.
Giving leads to receiving with leads back to giving. It’s a continuous cycle.

Giving and Receiving — You Can’t Have One without the Other

Giving in its purist form comes from love. This type of giving and receiving can be an energizing experience. It generates a connection between the gift-giver and the gift-getter. 

When someone gives you a gift, it is the start of a cycle in the law of giving and receiving. The way you can return the gift is by being open and accepting. In other words, it is as if you are giving a gift in return by happily accepting.

In the law of giving and receiving, you cannot have one without the other; the two are intricately entwined.

As I thought about this connection today, I couldn’t help but to think about a hug. The person giving the hug is also receiving a hug from the other person. Where the hugs starts or stops is unclear. But, you can’t have a hug without someone giving and the other receiving. Take a moment to think about this for yourself.

Blocked Ability to Receive

On the other hand, there are people who say: I love to give, but receiving makes me uncomfortable.

When you are guarded in the act of receiving, it cuts off the connection, love and affection that can be exchanged through the giving/receiving process. 

Without someone to receive there is no giving. And, without someone to give, you can’t receive. As a visual to describe what we are talking about, think back to the concept of giving/receiving a hug.

If one is blocked, you will block your ability to have the other, as you will see in the following images.

Receiving with a big red X over it which leads to an ability to give.
When receiving is blocked, it leads to an inability to give.
Giving with a big red X over it signifying a blockage in giving which leads to an inability to receive.
When giving is blocked, it leads to an inability to receive.

Giving is Better than Receiving. But, is it Really?

You’ve likely heard this adage (which is apparently a quote from the Bible).

It‘s better to give than to receive.

— Bible, Acts 20:35 (King James Version)

This seems to be a quote frequently used. And, is one that I recall quoting at a young age, perhaps before I even fully understood what was meant by it.

While giving is a beautiful act, there is definitely more we need to take into consideration…

Is it Actually Better to Give than to Receive?

Honestly, it is not something I had really ever questioned before writing this blog post. But, in the process of learning more about giving and receiving, I am starting to see things differently. Here is a quote to help articulate what I am trying to get at… 

Love begets love. If you show it, you will feel it. If you give it, you will receive it.

— Elizabeth Bourgeret

With this quote in mind, the old adage kinda starts to make sense. It is better to give than to receive because of this fact: When we give something we will receive something in return. Again, completing the cycle of giving and receiving.

So, it would make sense that putting an emphasis on giving helps us to create more opportunities to receive. 

Cool. Cool. I can agree with and accept this. However, I am still stuck on this whole receiving thing.

To elaborate some more, let‘s get back to that story about my mom.

An Act of Love Through Giving

In early 2002, I was in my first year of college and working as a server at a local restaurant. It was the first time in my life I was making money. Like, good money, not just minimum wage to pay for my car (and matching underwear with my friends, as I did in high school).

Every single night I left the restaurant, I had cash in hand. The money was often burning a hole in my pocket because of the relationship (and conversations) I had about it while growing up. I’ve shared a little bit about my ungrateful past before, so we will leave it at that for now. If you’d like to read more, check out this link.

I do, however, want to stress that this was a very new experience for me. And, I was excited to finally be able to give to others with the money I had earned.

Before this, my mom would talk pretty regularly about wanting a diamond tennis bracelet. As a kid, I understood that this type of bracelet could be fairly expensive because it was essentially a gold (or white gold) bracelet with diamond encompassing it to its entirety, such as the example below.

diamond bracelet on the pile of stone
A white gold diamond tennis bracelet. Photo by The glorious studio on Pexels.com

While this type of bracelet was a regular conversation in our house, to be honest, I don’t really recall one specific conversation. I do remember wanting to give my mom this thing she had pined over for so long. And, that day finally came in May 2002.

My mom’s birthday is in the month of May, not too long after Mother’s Day. It seemed like a great opportunity to get her exactly the gift she had wanted for years.

Stressing again, this was a big deal. Since money had been mostly lacking before this serving job, I hadn’t exactly been in a place to purchase a lavish gift for anyone before. Couple this with how badly she had wanted this piece of jewelry. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to make my mom smile by making her dream come true.

Gift Giving Denied (= Love Denied?)

As you have likely guessed, based on the foreshadowing above, the moment of giving my mom the gift happened. But, didn’t quite come to fruition as I had imagined.

While my mom said she loved the bracelet, it was followed by these words, “I can’t keep it.”

Side note, we have to acknowledge that I was giving with anticipation of specific outcome (or expectation). We will address this concept in greater detail in the Rethinking Giving section below.

With disappointment in my heart, I took the bracelet back to the mall. Inevitably, the jeweler asked why I was returning it, but I couldn’t fully grasp what was happening. My mom wanted the bracelet, but didn’t want to keep it. How does that work?

Everything about the situation was perplexing to me at the time. However, as the decades have passed, I finally understand what happened that day: My mom was unable to receive the gift. She was struggling with the law of giving and, more specifically, receiving.

I never really thought about this before, but perhaps my adolescent brain thought this event meant my love was denied? That is a crazy thought, but is not entirely outside the realm of possibility. We will, however, table that for now.


Hold up. Let’s talk about the elephant in the room…

Please don’t take this as though I am blaming my mom for my problems (or giving/receiving block). That is not what I am trying to say here. My young mind couldn’t grasp what was happening — It just didn’t make sense to me.

The only way I could justify what happened, was to tell myself a story. And, that story I created was this: I am not good at giving gifts. My adolescent mind turned the events to make it as though I was the (only) problem. 

As a result of this curated story, I continued to feed into this narrative many other times throughout my life. For example, there was the time I bought a friend a watch. But, I never saw them wear it… I’d venture to guess it was returned or re-gifted.

Another time, I bought a family member a wedding gift. It was a Crockpot, not a super exciting gift, but remember it was for a wedding and something they had been talking about wanting. With excitement and enthusiasm I gave them a Crockpot, but it was quickly squashed. I learned they had already purchased one just a couple days before.

These events contributed to the story I had been telling myself for years before this: I am not good at giving gifts.

What happens when you start to believe this as fact? Well, you just kinda give up on giving gifts. Literally. I rarely buy gifts. It is something that actually brings me anguish. To not give someone a gift is actually easier for me than buying something they don’t want, like, or need.

Whew, that is some heavy shit when you think of it that way!! Damn, I’ve got some work to do to unpack that… but we will leave it at that for now.


The events that transpired through this experience has contributed to the story that has shaped my relationship with giving and receiving. As a result, I have struggled with it for a long time.

Suddenly, it is more evident as to why I’ve struggled with giving and receiving. The negative associations with giving have fueled this inaccurate story that I’m not good at gift giving and has led to difficulty accepting gifts.

How Does This Relate to You and Your Relationship with Giving and Receiving?

I assure you, it relates more than you may realize. Even if you are thinking you don’t have issues with giving or receiving, lets continue to unpack this concept.

Here are some questions to think about:

  • Do you have a healthy relations with both aspects — giving AND receiving?
    • Do you give with joy? Are you able to accept gifts in a similar fashion?
  • What does your relationship with giving and receiving look like?
    • When someone gives you a gift, a compliment, or offers to support you, do you have trouble accepting?
    • What are your feelings and/or emotions surrounding giving gifts to others?
  • Do you have a preference to one or the other?
    • If you wholeheartedly believe it’s better to give than receive, that is fine. But, do you use it to block your ability to receive?
      • If you are wondering, yes, that is totally a thing. Someone who says, “Don’t worry about it. You don’t need to give me anything.” Well, that can be a way of hiding behind an inability to receive. Right?!

How do we Block the Law of Giving and Receiving? 

You may struggle to think of one specific event that led you to have a hard time with giving or receiving. It is understandable, not everyone can recall a specific story such as the one I described above. Regardless of a triggering event, if you are having a hard time with giving and/or receiving, there is something happening.

Many of the conversations we have in society essentially teach us to block the flow of giving and receiving. For example, society places a greater value on giving which is especially true for women.

We are taught that to be a ”good” person, we need to help others. And, that must be a selfless act. So, if we ask for anything in return, it somehow devalues the good we are doing for others.

Additionally, the conversations you had about giving and receiving while growing up certainly influence this — and can lead to a block. Think back to the story I just told you. If you are constantly inundated with messages, such as it is better to give and you must give selflessly, it can be difficult to learn how to be open and accepting to receive a gift (or support from someone).

That said, if you are just now creating awareness around a blocked ability to give and/or receive in your life — you are not alone. On a subconscious level, I’ve definitely blocked my ability to give and receive. At the time I was creating these stories in my mind, I did not have the ability to recognize what was happening. Therefore, I am just now acknowledging, accepting, and working on this block. So, let’s do this work together!

Emotions that may come up when we struggle with giving and receiving:

  • Unworthiness
  • Embarrassment
  • Vulnerability
  • Inadequacy (or feelings of not being good enough)

What an inability to give and receive may sound (or look) like:

  • I don’t deserve…
  • I can’t accept this…
  • You’re just saying that because you have to.

Rethinking Giving

There are plenty of things we could be doing to improve our ability to give. Let’s start by discussing some basic principles of giving.

First, we need to re-evaluate what we expect to happen when we give. As in, it is important to make sure that we do not have a specific expectation of what will occur once we give someone a compliment, support, a gift, or anything else. (Um, this is a principle I did not follow when giving my mom the diamond bracelet).

Next consider your intentions when giving. If you are reluctant to give, you will not generate anything in return. Just as if you believe you are on the losing end of a giving situation, you will not receive anything in return.

To overcome this, you must give with the intention to create happiness as the giver and for the recipient. Your intention needs to be filled with joy simply for the act of giving.

Now, you might be concerned that you do not have money or material possessions to give to others. The act of giving does not require a monetary value. Compliments, notes, smiles or high-fives, these are things that do not require a financial component.

Regardless of your financial status, you are an abundant being and have the ability to give. Think back to the toddler than offers to share the Cheerio. The simple act of giving what you can is beautiful in itself. Laughter, knowledge, a smile… these are all things we can give to others.

A quote to solidify what we are talking about here.

To truly give is not to expect something in return of equal value. But, instead trust that your gifts may cause a butterfly effect, so that those receiving may one day do the same.

― Melissa Monique Brown

Re-learning the Basics of Giving (a recap):

  • Give with positive intention.
  • Give to share joy with others.
  • Give without expectation.
  • Give with love.

Ways to Give without Spending Money

  • A compliment
  • Handwritten note
  • Smiles or high-fives
  • Laughter
  • Sharing knowledge or helping someone
  • Volunteering
  • Donating items you no longer use
  • And, so much more!

Reframing Receiving

By accepting a gift, we complete the cycle of giving and it creates a connection between both parties.

Another way to think of receiving is like this: When someone gives you a gift, it is something the Universe intended to be for you. It has always been for you. And, it is time for you to accept what is already yours.

Additionally, receiving is not about wanting (or loving) that specific thing. Instead, it is about appreciating the person and the act of giving.

When someone gives you something, be sure to feel the joy shared in that moment with the other person. Verbally acknowledge the act of giving — say thank you with a smile.

If you are still uncomfortable with accepting a gift, think back to the statement above. The gift is from the Universe for you. It has all been for you. Your job is to accept it with an open heart.

By accepting the gift, you are continuing the flow of giving and receiving. Consider it the other half of a hug!

Recap of Reframing Receiving

  • By accepting a gift, we complete the natural cycle of the law of giving and receiving.
  • Welcoming a gift with an open heart can be a way to give back to the gift-giver.
  • We create a connection by accepting a present from the gift-giver.

Life is a balance between giving and receiving. The more you give, the more abundance will fill your life with joy.

― Debasish Mridha

I’ll leave you with this: The Universe has intended for this gift to be yours; by welcoming it into your heart, you are continuing the cycle of giving and receiving.

Giving Affirmations

  • The more I love, the more love is returned to me.
  • I am giving and compassionate.

Receiving Affirmations

  • I am open and welcoming to receiving my gifts from the Universe.
  • I am the gatekeeper and I am ready to allow what is already mine to enter my life.
  • I am successful and I am open to receiving it.

If you are a lover of personal growth, this is certainly an area of your life to focus on. Give yourself positive energy by giving to others. And, accepting it in return.

If you’ve got any feedback, drop it below in the comments section!

XOXO Kristi

If you want to read more, checkout Deepak Chopra’s Spiritual Laws of Giving and Receiving.

Last Updated on March 6, 2022 by Kristi Coughlin

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