Are you giving selflessly? Are you receiving gratefully?
In order to understand giving and receiving it is useful to have some background on what karma is.
Karma is immeasurable in the limited capability of the human mind or any technology we possess, therefore, a concept not prized by many rationalists. The thing with karma is that if you make yourself consciously aware of it, you may experience 'the forces being against you', or perhaps being boundlessly generous. On a psychological level, we could relate Karma to psychoanalytic theory as unconscious activity which can further manifest itself in the physical world, or lead you to acting in or against your own interest.
One idea of how we can relate Karma to psychoanalytic processes may depend on whether you have an inclination for self entitlement or low self esteem. If you think of yourself as someone who is not entitled to experience joy, and you feel that the universe is treating you as such, then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. This idea will work at a subconscious level causing you to respond to situations in order to manifest that.
We are our own judge, whether our actions cause a reaction in the conscious or the unconscious. While some misplace the idea that only god can judge us, the unconscious can be inferred as god or the higher self or one of many other synonyms relating to that which is knowable yet unknown. God is within us and we are physical manifestations of this force with varying understandings of morality, thus we become our own judge irrespective of 'societal standards'.
An example would be, let's say that you stole something - a Mars bar and you rationalised this through internal dialogue by saying, "the shop owner won't even notice the loss in profit", you have acknowledged a misdeed and tricked yourself into thinking it's okay, however, your unconscious mind is planting seeds of guilt which will manifest themselves in various ways throughout your life beyond this.
Either way, trying to relate your understanding of the coincidental relationship between an action and perceived consequence would perhaps make you seem like a spiritual nut to the scientific man.
Whether it is a gift, advice, charity, a hug, a dirty look or an insult your actions are rewarded internally.
The psychological mechanics of giving could potentially be explained in the following manner. If you 'give' with selfless intention, whether it be charity, a hug, or even your seat on a crowded bus, you get an instant sense of joy from the loving act you performed which is true to your character. Should you perform these actions without a genuinely loving intention, because there is a societal expectation of this, then it is coming from outside rather than within. In this sense you may not instantly experience that aforementioned fulfilment and may be waiting for a misconceived 'karma' to 'reciprocate'. Perhaps you give charity for a bit of 'luck' before a business deal, you may give your seat up on the bus because it is expected of you by onlooking passengers, but it is born out of expectation rather than love. Performing an act out of societal expectations or with expectation could leave someone with a sour taste about performing acts of kindness.
Now, I am not saying that you shouldn't do something unless you feel a genuine desire to, as these social expectations are of a benefit to the human race as they encourage acts of kindness and may perhaps start someone on a path of giving, or at least put them in a positive place. This is how 'objective morality' can filter into your life for the better.
There is nothing wrong with receiving, contrary to whatever guilt you may feel when you receive something without paying, working or suffering for it. This guilt is born out of a transactional society in which you must pay for everything. This may be a reason that people are so hell-bent on becoming super-rich, so they do not need to encounter this feeling of guilt.
When someone is giving you something, whether advice, a gift or even a smile acknowledge the loving intention behind it and fill your boots with this warm sensation. When we become embarrassed or have a feeling of being indebted from receiving a gift it prevents both sides from enjoying the exchange.
One man’s trash is another mans treasure.
When you adopt the attitude of giving without the desire for recompense you learn to accept things offered to you without guilt and embrace the lesser known kinder side of human nature.
You manifest the world around you by pursuing what is meaningful to you. Sometimes you must pay with money i.e. a university degree, sometimes you must pay with time, but whatever you pay is irrelevant in relation to your goal. Money is an enabler, not a sacrifice. Along the way you will discover that the bounty you receive far exceeds the money or time that you have paid for it. The university lecturer that enlightens you, the valuable financial lesson you learn from a wry business deal will help guide you far more in the future when the stakes are higher. We transmute our possessions and time into something meaningful.
Everyone appears to be seeking love. Some expect love to come to then without showing any love. Remember however, this is not a transactional commodity, expectations can lead to disappointment and without a finely attuned sense you may not be aware of where love is emanating from. Don’t concern yourself with people whom prize material wealth as you cannot genuinely love money. What someone does with money, power or skills can be loved if it is virtuous in the eyes of the observer.
How often do we find ourselves giving more than we can afford? When finances are limited, we can only give so much, but when we awaken everyday with a new source of energy and time, we seem to spend it without consideration. How long have you been stuck in a job you that didn't fulfil you because you didn't want to let others down, or because you were offered more money or prestige for your time? In these cases we are giving more than we would like and draining our resources.
The aim of giving is not to gain power over another, nor to sacrifice yourself to another but recognition of something which you possess which will be of more value to another than it serves you.
So give without remorse, receive without guilt and appreciate the quality of the action.