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Do you have a pet, or perhaps two? If you’re like me, my pet is an important part of my life. Mine is an eight-year-old black lab who follows me around as much as he can, mostly waiting for crumbs to fall, but also because he loves being with his people.

I call him Mr. Happy, though his real name is Bandit. Which is full of irony. Mr. Happy gives me so much Joy. I just look in his brown eyes and receive a shot of unadulterated love. His endless antics entertain me. And there’s no place he’d rather be, except maybe following me on a trail with a stick.

It’s a great relationship we have. He Gives me love, I Receive it. Of course I give it back, but he doesn’t really ask for much. Just being with me, or the rest of his family, is usually enough. He doesn’t usually ask if he can lick my face, but I don’t complain much either.

I wish I could say that about other relationships in my life. The Giving and Receiving part. But the challenge is, I’m not a very good Receiver. Receiving is when you just open your hand, or your heart, and someone dumps in something special. Like when you see a rainbow, you feel that you’ve been gifted.


More than a few times I’ve refused some serious Love or Support or Friendship because I felt there were strings attached and that I might not be able to reciprocate. So I shut the door on the hand or heart that was giving. I look back and see how selfish that was, to have denied someone the opportunity to Give because I was afraid.

When you don’t know how to receive, you miss out on a lot of giving.

My schizophrenic dog Bandit is also pretty good at Taking. He was aptly named- the one who has eaten more than one chocolate cake off the counter, most of the Halloween candy for the past decade, and has started eating apple cores and carrot butts since we’re now so careful about leaving food out.

My whole family now Offers him the apple cores and carrots. We get such a kick out of watching him devour these healthy treats that we enjoy the exchange. I hold out my hand and Offer it to him, inviting him to share the apple with me, and he Takes it. Bandit has finally learned (I think?) he’s not to jump on the counters uninvited.

They’re different types of exchanges- the Giving and Receiving, and the Offering and Taking. But if you’re in contact with people, or animals, for very long at all, there is likely a lot of it. That is, if you’re willing to really be in a healthy relationship.

giving a flower hands

I’m learning to distinguish between the four modes of exchange, more capably described by Mark Silver in Unveiling the Heart of Your Business. If I wait passively for something to happen, to Receive something that I need, it is possible that I’m going to miss an Offer from someone who would really like me to Take it.

In the same way, if I want to graciously Give someone a gift that comes from my heart, and they reach out to pluck it from me, the Taking may offend me. At times it’s hard to figure out exactly whether you’re supposed to Take or Receive, and other times even harder to know whether to Give or Offer. Mostly I think you have to feel it inside- what’s right for you and for the other? It takes a lot of trusting to be in healthy relationship like that.

What examples of Giving & Receiving can you think of in your life? How does it feel to be the giver or receiver in an authentic exchange of the heart?

Offering and Taking may be the more typical exchange in Western culture, where the confidence to Receive from others depends on trust and self-acceptance. How do trust and fear, or inability to love yourself, limit your ability to Give or Receive?

Allowing others to give authentically to you requires that you both trust them and love yourself enough to know you are worthy of the gift.

And how sincere are you (and self-loving) in communicating Offers to others, and willing to allow others to refuse your Offer?

Lots of stuff I still need to chew on, if Bandit doesn’t get to it first. If you had a purpose-driven life, who would you be when it comes to making exchanges with others- your partner? Your children or teens? Coworkers or employees? How does your Current Way keep you from your life purpose? Please share your thoughts on these questions in the comments below.

Holly Woods, Ph.D. helps people whose lives are affected by the emotional pain of trauma from their past and who want to find the courage to face it and move forward. I use Integral Life Coaching to help you uncover who you are and find your true self.  Contact me for a Free Discovery Consult for Life Coaching using the Integral Theory if you’re ready to explore your Current Way.