Putting on my Superwoman cape and trying to fly has caused problems most of my life. I crash among other bruised souls who I decide need my help.
The thing is, not everyone wants to be saved. Not that they can’t be saved, but probably they are too afraid or it’s too much work or their situation isn’t as painful as I imagine. Or maybe they don’t need my help after all, and the problem is about me, not them. Just maybe.
Oh, one more thing … I’m not a savior.
I wised up to this a few years ago, although not before I slipped into a few too many phone booths.
Like when a friend’s teenager knocked a hole in the wall after she threatened to take away his car, the one for which she was paying.
And when a coworker’s husband blamed her that their nine-year-old was threatening to physically hurt his siblings.
And when my elderly friend who lived on a fixed income handed over cash weekly to her unemployed daughter.
I counseled and told them what I wouldn’t put up with, offered solutions that might work, and suggested books, CDs, counselors and self-help groups to fix it all. I took more responsibility for others than they took for themselves. The advice caused problems because they didn’t ask for guidance.
Most likely they wanted to vent and go on, but I wasn’t about to let that happen because their problems scared me.
It wasn’t until I messed up a handful of relationships, and became physically ill trying to help a friend, all the while she packed for her trip to Disney, that I recognized my rescuing attempts were a result of my own fears, and not helpful to anyone.
How do we stop ourselves if we’re overcome with fear and with the urge to help?
My number one rule is wait 24 hours before I say anything or before I take any action unless the situation is an emergency. Most things can wait a day. Usually my desperate urge to fix calms down by then.
Next, I ask myself, “Did they ask for my help?” Telling me their problems for two hours on the phone does not mean they’ve asked me to fix them.
Finally, I ask these questions before I take flight off a roof or something higher –
- Why am I trying to help? Am I avoiding something in my own life?
- Am I doing for others what they should be doing for themselves? If yes, I want to respect them and trust they are capable.
- Am I paying attention to their actions, or just listening to what they say? Sometimes people talk about change, but don’t follow through. If they don’t look like they are taking responsibility, chances are they’re not.
What’s your take on helping? I’d love to hear from you.
WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – Helping feels so good when it’s really helpful, and so bad when it’s not. Let’s hold up our helpfulness to the light of wisdom instead of fear.
On the side: Sharing similar thoughts from Michael Hyatt on helping from his article “Are You Investing Your Best Resources in the Wrong People?”
Also on the side, I altered scenarios so people involved are not easily identified.