When Helping is Not Helping


Having the desire to help others is the calling that brings many into the “helping professions.” For others, it is the day to day service that we do for our families, children and others we work for/or/with.

There is a fine line however when helping is not really helping, but rather a barrier that leads to stagnation or worse yet, fosters an unhealthy dependence.

Indicators of when helping is NOT helping:
1. When the help we provide is not accepted by others

The term I’ve used for years is when helping leads to “help rejecting complainers.” When our helping leads others to excuse themselves of embracing the help, then rejecting it, or avoiding it. This is not a judgment of our help or our intent, but of others’ readiness to change. They may simply not see the same way as you do. They may not value the same things.

2. When the help leads others to make the same poor decisions

Any change effort has to be embraced as well as given. It is hard to understand why what would seem to be needed, is often not chosen by another, and is rejected. The help that is given, only leads others to choose the same poor path. It is helpful to preferably accept that sometimes others are either not ready, have other motivations, or are too fearful to accept the implications of a change.

3. Fear

One of the biggest factors is the fear of the unknown or that accepting the help will actually lead to new experiences. Unless there is great fortitude to change, and a readiness, we will not embrace the help or opportunities provided without an “experience” that drives them toward embracing them. Sadly, fear is the final determinant to changing. We “fear” something else, and it leads to a crisis…which then leads to receiving help. Sometimes humans react when there is a need for rescue, rather than prevention.

Don’t take it personal
Helping others doesn’t always lead to successful results. It is nothing personal, but you will fail to provide others help they need. It is a joint venture not an individual helping effort. Developing a “preference” to see others change rather than an attitude that others “must” change or accept help is a good starting point for the helper which can prevent burnout.

Are there times when you don’t accept help? Why?

(Photo: By the author)


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