Recently I had a friend who was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. When she delivered the news, I asked if she was up for visitor and with agreement, I went to see her.

We talked, and we have continued to talk regularly about how the diagnosis has shifted her life. There is one shift that together we have uncovered is going to be one of her greatest challenges: accepting support from others without reciprocating.

My friend, we’ll call her Catherine, is a very nurturing person. She finds great joy in doing things for others, as was represented in the career she chose, as well as in her personal life. When we spoke about Catherine accepting support from others we stumbled across her resistance to receive if she could not provide something in return. It was an aha moment for her. She had never realized her need to feel she gave as much, if not more than she received.

It’s a common challenge for many people to be given something, even emotional support, without offering something in response.

As we began to explore it further she brought up the example of when I came to visit her. Shortly after we greeted each other she led me into her home. Immediately she began to offer me water, tea, a glass of wine. When I declined, and asked her to sit and relax she seemed resistant. She finally sat, but then said, “Are you sure I can’t get you some tea, something else?” No was my reply, I was there for her, not be waited on. She reflected about how she felt that if I had made the effort to come visit her she should “give” me something in return.

As the discussion continued and she realized that this was a pattern for herself. We spoke about how it is okay to accept something from someone and to not have to give in return. A simple thank you can be more than enough.

This was a big stretch for Catherine and she recognized it. She also realized that it was something that would probably be a good exercise for her to practice as she fought the cancer – to receive freely from others.

Catherine is one of the strongest, positive people I know and I have no doubt that she will kick the cancer’s butt. Being a spiritual person, she looks as this as a time for her to learn things that will lead to a greater purpose, and will allow her to help others in the future. For now, Catherine is willing to try to accept the help from others and be grateful for their support, without feeling compelled to give back in return. Hurray Catherine!

It is ok to receive without reciprocity. Often it can be a great gift you give to someone else, letting them do something for you.

Share in the comments below if you know someone or if you yourself have difficulty receiving without offering something in return, and how it makes you feel.