I like to help others. I have such a deep desire to do this that I itch to make it the top comment on my resume or profile.

Help Others

I’ve always been in a helping profession, even while teaching or directing.

However, with friends and family, I have less objectivity than at work. With family, I want to jump in to rescue, to change, to provide tools. I want to help. But recently I received strong indications that my help was a bit of a hindrance. In one case I sent an email to a few people, full of options of how we all could help some others. Many people do this, but most often they focus on a world crisis. This was personal, between a few people. Though I got a discussion going, some of it was, “what are you thinking, Leigh?” Apparently some levels of help are overkill.

Yesterday I spoke to my sister for a long time. She is incredibly talented, and speaks about brilliant ideas to work with more people in her area of specialty: nutrition. Yesterday I became a coach, instead of a sister. I listened to her wants, then urged her to take action and challenged her doubts.

I could tell she was feeling a bit of stress. When I got off the phone I realized, maybe there is a reason for her hesitations. Maybe she doesn’t need me coaching her about her future. Maybe she can simply enjoy the present and see how the future unfolds. Maybe I can simply listen.

Listening is the Best Form of Help

Sometimes help is better when you simply listen, let others take care of themselves, and learn their own lessons. If I listened instead of “helped,” I wouldn’t have sent that email. The end result could have been the same, but without the overkill. If I simply listened to my sister, maybe she wouldn’t have felt stress. I don’t know. I only know the path I chose.

This can be frustrating. I know I offer objective, listening-type help to students, colleagues, employees. But with family, I get too close and can’t see my own helpful offerings with the same objectivity.

However, I believe that everything happens for a reason, and sometimes that reason is to learn a lesson. In this case the lesson is to let others learn their own lesson.

This isn’t a fairy tale world. We aren’t always rescued by the prince. If we were, wouldn’t stay in a situation long enough to figure out how to resolve it the next time. We need to NOT be rescued long enough to figure out the solution on our own.

I’m a firm believer that we repeat our lessons until we learn them. If someone else rescues us, we don’t learn those lessons.

There are times when help is needed. These are:

1. When someone asks.

2. When it involves a child and you can help their development.

I picture helping as a side-by-side venture. With you having equal power or decision-making to the person you help.

But what if we simply support? I see support as providing a backup, a source to lean on, to cheer. They are still the leader in their lesson. They make the final decision. They don’t need a prince to rescue them. They need stairs to walk down themselves.

Whether we support family, friends, students or staff, everyone has life lessons to learn. It is up to us to support them while they build those stairs.

Connect on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/elevationbeauty
Follow on twitter: http://www.twitter.com/elevationbeauty


  • Some guy with an opinion Posted April 1, 2011 11:48 am

    I grew up with a disabled sister, who taught me (and herself) over time that helping is not always about the recipient. There's always a question that needs to be asked, I think: "Am I helping that person by helping, or am I just doing this for myself?" In the case of my sister, I learned to ask first: "Do you want my help?" If the answer was, "No!" (Or, in times of stress, "F– off, no!") then I had to examine my reasons. Often they were genuine, sometimes they were just to satisfy my own agitation at watching helplessly. Almost inevitably, my desire to alleviate my own feelings by "helping" was the unwelcome kind of help.

    Before she died, my sister once told me these rather harsh words: "Helping others without solicitation has two meta-messages: 1. You're doing it wrong/ineffectually, and 2. I know/can do it better than you. Unless they've already arrived at these two conclusions themselves, they'll never accept your help, and you'll be wrong for offering it."

    I don't know if I entirely agree with her, but I can certainly see that her position of needing (and frequently being offered) help whether she wanted it or not might have given her such a solidly negative view of help. And, to that end, I also know that helping and offering support, advice, consolation, etc. is not always honest and meant face at its face value.

    It's tricky, innit …? 🙂

  • Leigh Harris Posted April 1, 2011 3:12 pm

    Your perspective in enlightening. I can also understand your sister's position.

    Yet your own genuine feelings were authentic. You can't discount your need to help her to feel better, but her point of view seems to say she would rather be as independant as possible.

    So I ask you, how do you think people know when to step in (because there are times it is necessary), and when do they know to sit back and wait? Or is it something in the middle?

    Thank you for providing much to think about.


  • guy Posted April 4, 2011 7:34 pm

    I wish I had a rule for knowing when it was right to jump in and help, and when I should hang back and wait for the solicitation. I get it wrong a lot. Asking first is a good idea, but as you pointed out, in the case of children it's not always right or appropriate to ask first; sometimes the child just doesn't know.

    I agree with you: Somewhere in the middle. It's a spectrum, and maybe everyone's at a different place. No science to it, but maybe people with good EQ can make an art out of it.

    I also agree with you that being rescued before I've had time to solve my own problem is not helpful at all. I figure most people feel that way whether they realize it or not 🙂

  • Leigh Harris Posted April 5, 2011 5:54 am

    Thank you, Guy.

    You make a good point. Everyone IS at a different place.

    EQ or intuition is something we can all practice and improve. Learn to sense what others need, yet be self-aware enough to let them make their own decisions.

    Thanks again. Enjoy your day!

Comments are closed.