Recently I was invited to be the guest speaker at local Business Women’s Association monthly event, their theme being “Helping & Understanding”. Quite frankly, I had no idea what I was going to say to a dynamic group of ladies for whom “helping” and reaching out comes as naturally as breathing. So I started thinking about the other side of helping. When does helping actually become not helping? We reach out and help others for a number of reasons and not all of them are as altruistic as we think they may be.
When we decide that someone needs our help, we don’t always remember to ask the person if that’s the help they actually want. We think we know better. When people do not engage their own energy in the process, it is often not as valued as it should be. Sometimes our help can be more disempowering than empowering. If we come across a butterfly struggling to break free of its cocoon and we think “ah no, let me help this poor butterfly break free”, the butterfly will die. Its wings will remain undeveloped and weak and it cannot fly. It is the actual struggle to break out of the cocoon that pushes the nutrients into the wings and strengthens them so that the butterfly can fly away in all its glory.
Helping from a space of guilt is disempowering for both the giver and the receiver. It can make the receiver feel “less than” and they can become resentful. When we give from a place of guilt we too can become resentful. Or we step in and take over completely, which again is disempowering and not supportive of the person’s growth.
There is also helping others because that, in turn, boosts our own sense of self-worth/self-esteem. We feel that we do not have any value unless we are helping someone or “doing good.”
True giving comes straight from the heart with no strings attached. No conditions. Unlike one of my clients who, at the age of 29, is still completely dependent on her mother who pays for every single thing in her life and demands a high price in return. The mother even refers to the relationship as a “dictatorship”! Her daughter is facing some difficult times as she starts the process of standing on her own two feet but she knows deep down that this comfort zone has become a prison and she is beginning to hate every aspect of the life over which she has no control. Grateful for the support, this has now become a constricted way of living. She yearns to break free, make her own mistakes and do it for herself.
So the next time you want to jump in and help, perhaps take a moment and ask yourself exactly why you are doing it and how it will benefit the person concerned.
Sometimes NOT stepping in to help is the best and most powerful action we can take.