Grudging Giver and Resistant Receiver

I have become aware over the past few years that I have a major deficit in my heart due to a lack of proper nurturing and training when I was young. I know that it comes from that time in my life because infancy is the maturing time when this vital component of life is supposed to be integrated into the fabric of each person's thinking and relating. But what I am now faced with is how to expose, address and repair this problem.

The deficit is my tendency or lack of willing ability to receive before attempting to disperse. I have learned in the past few years that when a person is forced to give unselfishly before learning first of all to receive with joy, then the character is marred and that person becomes stunted and somewhat warped in this part of their experience. The person may or may not become a giver and sharer of what they have with others, but their ability to do so with joy and spontaneously with a spirit of cheerfulness is seriously lacking. It is like damaging an opening flower by trying to force open the petals instead of allowing them to unfold naturally.

This is not to say that it cannot be learned at a later time in life. But it is far more difficult to go back and learn missed lessons from early childhood after one is grown up than it would have been to learn them at the proper time and in an atmosphere of love and encouragement and safety.

When a person is taught to give before they truly learn to receive without resistance and with genuine joy, that person can grow up to be apparently a generous person but will lack the ability to do it from a motive that really blesses others the way God intended them to. They end up doing things from a sense of duty or to avoid feeling guilty instead of from a reservoir of genuine love and joy. Instead of feeling like a fountain of life and good things for all around them, their perception of life often becomes a subconscious fear that they are going to run out of things they need while at the same time God demands that they give. So they exercise a calculated degree of generosity to satisfy the demands of the God that they serve while secretly worrying that their own needs are going to go unmet.

This thinking or some variation of it becomes the foundational paradigm from which all relationships are affected. The ability to feel spontaneously grateful is also greatly inhibited and even the verse in the Bible saying that God loves a cheerful giver becomes a source of even more guilt as this person views this text as yet another demand that is difficult to satisfy. So the person works harder at trying to put on some semblance of cheerfulness while grudgingly giving from a sense of duty and fear and all the while wondering why it is so hard to live the Christian life.

This is a description of my own experience for much of my life with some variations on it. That is not to say that I am always grudging in my gifting to others. God is doing a work of transformation in my life that includes learning to give from the heart beyond my sense of duty and obligation that motivated me for so many years. But it is still sometimes a struggle for me to express easy appreciation and gratitude for what others do for me, and that has long frustrated both me and those who feel that I am insensitive to their kindnesses.

I have learned that all of these symptoms are common results of a legalistic perception of religion that has skewed my feelings and relationship with God and others. But conversely, as my understanding of the real truth about God has improved, so too has my sense of generosity been more spontaneous. As my deep fear of not being provided for has decreased through natural faith that springs up by seeing God more clearly, it becomes easier to rest in His care and become a less-resistant channel of good things to others.

However, I realize that I still have a lot of the wrong mentality and mental framework in tact that was formed during early childhood when these lessons were being inculcated into my hard-wiring. As I have become aware of these principles I can see more and more clearly how resistant I am to receiving good things from others gracefully and without feelings of selfishness or guilt. This lack of ability or willingness to receive in a right frame of mind and spirit becomes a serious handicap to experiencing and developing other important character traits that need this principle in place as a foundation upon which to build.

I am very aware of the rampant problem of “welfare mentality” that blights our world today. Millions of people are trapped in a psyche of depending on others to provide everything they want and need while selfishly living only as consumers. Yes, this is a curse that can destroy our life and society around us. But that is a problem rooted in other deficiencies in maturity. And that problem has only served to exacerbate the problem of those who determine to raise their children to be givers instead of takers.

It often seems wrong to teach people to first be receivers before they can become authentic givers of good things to those around them, especially in light of those caught in the trap just described. But there really is an equally dangerous trap of not being able to give from a spontaneously cheerful heart because a person has been forced to give too soon. When a child is forced to give before learning to receive, an important development function of the brain is ignored in favor of rushing to make our children look good and perform good before their emotional heart has been properly developed to be ready for that lesson.

This is not a subject widely understood or even recognized. But as I have learned about it and the dangers that it poses for healthy relationships, I have come to realize that it is an area of my own emotional structure and personality that needs a lot more remedial work. I am still in great need of heart training for both receiving without resistance and sharing with genuine grace. Until I learn more of these lessons of grace it will be impossible for me to function efficiently within the family model that marks the kingdom of heaven.

Healthy emotional relationships depend very much on proper development of a number of skills that build on each other in our character development. These skills are ideally learned at the proper times while growing up as a child and young adult. When they are missed there is a need to go back and do remedial training to fill in the gaps. Some of us have bigger gaps to fill in certain areas and some of us are better equipped to assist others in filling in their gaps. This is what mentoring is all about.

I can see that I could use some mentors who can teach me some of these things through example, through words and with a right spirit while exercising real joy by being willing to accept and value me while I display immature characteristics. I need remedial training by others who are strong where I am weak. I need much more integration into the real body of Christ where I can both be nurtured and can help to nurture others. There I can learn to receive to give and do so with genuine cheerfulness and joy.


  1. This post resonated with me. I know that, due to lack of nurturing as well as outright abuses in my early years, I've had these same struggles with giving with right motivations.

    It's refreshing to see someone delving beneath surface obedience to get to the heart of things.

    I clearly remember realizing (with sinking heart) when I was about 7 years old that I'd have to take care of myself from now on, because it was obvious no one else was going to.

    I'm glad God gives us plenty of space and time to deal with these issues!


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