by | May 1, 2018 | Mental Health, WOTM | 0 comments

When I think of the word “ask”, I immediately think about the give and take relationship, and I associate asking with the receiver in such an exchange.

During grad school, I had to take this course on how theology and psychology interact with each other…philosophically speaking. While most of my classmates hated it I hardcore geeked out on it. I had to read this book and again, everyone else in my class hated it, whereas I couldn’t get enough. It was an insanely difficult read – but I got so much out of it. Without being over-dramatic, there was one specific paragraph that has forever changed my viewing on asking and being the receiver.

Here’s the paragraph:

“…in the ideal world – possibly in the Kingdom of Heaven – there would be […] only continuous and repetitive self-sacrificial activity on the part of neighbors who perpetually give but never, in return, receive. [This position] conjures up the rather bizarre picture of everyone running around sacrificing themselves for the other and having none of their own needs met or actualized in return. Such an image, of course, finally reduces itself into absurdity. If my neighbor is always giving and never receiving, then my neighbor can no longer constitute an object for my own sacrificial giving. And if I am perpetually giving and never receiving, then I can never be an object for my neighbor’s sacrificial giving.”  (p. 133)

I think it’s pretty funny how profound this was to me, because when you really think about it, it’s perfectly logical and therefore, kind of simple and obvious. Everyone can’t always be giving and giving and giving while never receiving (and thereby, never asking) because if this were the true ideal and if we lived in Utopia and if everyone did it…said hypothetical Utopia world would implode because it actually can’t exist because there would literally be no one to give to because everyone was a giver and there were no receivers.

Whew. That was one heck of a run-on sentence. You’re welcome.

Anyway, once I grasped this concept, I suddenly felt like it was okay to be the receiver sometimes because for the first time, I had permission from myself and my belief system to receive, rather than a mandate to always be the giver or the sacrificer. Obviously, a lot of this is a result of the context in which I grew up and the ways the inherent belief system of said context shaped my own belief system, so this may resonate better with some than others. But I wonder how many of us a) have some kind of unconscious belief system that places more value on giving than receiving to some degree and b) would benefit from examining how our beliefs about giving vs receiving would logically play out if they were realized in a perfect world where everyone lived according to that belief.

So, that’s where mulling over the word “ask” has taken me this month – what about you? What do you think of when you hear the word “ask”? Do you have unconscious beliefs about giving vs receiving that could benefit from a little contemplation?

Browning, D. S., & Cooper, T. D. (2004). Religious thought & the modern psychologies (2nd ed.). Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.