Asking for help makes me feel weak and powerless. It is as if I am admitting to being defeated; that I am inferior and unable to do what needs to be done. I would almost rather drown than ask for someone to throw me a life ring. On the other hand, I love helping people. I enjoy offering kindness in big and small ways. I do not care if it is recognized or anonymous. I just like knowing that I could lift another’s burden even if just for a moment. I like when I am in a place with a little extra that I can offer it to someone who can benefit from the extra. I am pretty sure that I am not alone in feeling this way. I love to help but hate asking for help.
The definition of help now seems confining. Perhaps it isn’t the right word for what I really need. When I look at the list of synonyms, words like benefit, encourage, bolster, cooperate, serve and support seem to fit better. With those in mind, I can start to look at receiving help differently. I appreciate when others offer encouragement, cooperation, and support. I notice when they do things specifically to offer benefit or service to me. I feel bolstered by a person’s kindness.
Now I realize why offering help to someone can feel so weakening. Often my help looks like running to a fire with the intent of saving the person. I have my tools ready to fix it all. Perhaps offering to fix it just makes my friends feel weak. The words I use matter.
How many times have I said, ‘call if you need help’ or offered, ‘do you want help?’ The response from others is often the same a lackluster, ‘sure.’ I realize I do the same. I simply say, ‘thanks but no thanks.’ Inside I am screaming, ‘I don’t need your help. I am FINE!!!!’ But I’m not. I want to let others help. I just need to keep some of my autonomy; I still need to know that I am capable. And again, I am pretty sure I am not the only one who feels this way.
All of this made me think. What if I offer help differently? What if help stops looking like assistance or fixing and starts looking like kindness, encouragement, support and cooperation? What if it is no longer vague but instead quite specific?
After surgery a friend said, ‘I would like to bring you dinner. What time is good?’ I didn’t feel obligated or weak or inferior. I felt accepting and grateful. This last year when I was really emotionally struggling, a friend said, ‘I will be over in an hour to chat. I miss your face and would like to see you.’ I didn’t feel needy, I felt loved. Her offer gave me a way to say yes without feeling weak. I can do more to allow others to feel love, cooperation, and encouragement.
My goal is to make others feel loved and accepted not weak or incapable. Instead of vague offers to help, I will focus on providing a specific way to meet the other person’s needs. I can find a way to serve my fellow humans on this earth. Instead of, ‘let me know if I can bring you a meal,’ I will say, ‘I would love the chance to cook for you...would you like me to bring the meal on ____ or ____?’ I can offer support that is kindness. I can do more to encourage and bolster my friends.
Helping others should not only fill my soul but the receiver’s soul as well.
What makes you willing to accept help? How do you offer help that is well received?