So I have this thing about asking for help. I think I’m pretty good at it. When I could use some help I speak up and ask for it. Mostly. Kinda sorta. Okay, I’m not the best at asking for help. In fact I kind of get resentful when I find myself needing help.
Part of my problem, is in the actual recognizing my need for help. Another part is accepting the help offered especially if it doesn’t come the way I envisioned. And yet another part is that I feel slightly ashamed that I am so needy––that I couldn’t do it on my own––that I’m being a burden.
On the flip side, when people ask me for help, I have reacted in many weird and wonderful ways. Often I internally panic because what they have asked of me can seem far too important-to-mess up, overwhelming, time-consuming, expensive or beyond my capabilities and expertise. Sometimes I am gung-ho and jump in with helping hands, only to realize that what I thought would be helpful really was just making things worse. And sometimes when they asked for help, I don’t register what they are saying and don’t respond. I can be a bit insensitive. Possibly self-centered. Dense. A lot of the time.
Humans are a funny bunch of potatoes––coming in all shapes and sizes with knobs and warts in unexpected places, rarely fitting the ideal form.
I like humans when I don’t actually have interact with them on a daily or intimate basis. It’s much easier to theorize and postulate on what could be helpful for their problems from afar. Like sitting by myself in my comfy cozy armchair with a cuppa tea and blankie on my legs. It’s so easy to see what would help someone out from that position. And then a real life human will come and interrupt my daydreams and have the nerve to ask for real physical help––Like my son.
I love my son. He’s a very cool, imaginative, creative child. He’s pretty quick on the uptake with school and so usually I don’t have to worry too much about his education. However, recently he came to me and asked for help with his math homework. I dislike math. Well that is to say, I wasn’t the greatest at math in school. I can do basic numbers but when you get into all that weird stuff that I have never had to use since school, well I just suck.
So the kid is learning basic math. I’m decent at basic math. So yay! I can help. I start helping. It all spirals downwards into a big fight. Apparently my brand of help is no help at all! And we both go off fuming––one yelling that he’s never going to ask for help again and the other muttering about how she’s never going to give help again!
Recently some events happened in my family that started me thinking about people having a hard time accepting help. My grandparents are well known for being helpful, kind and generous people. Now they are aging and running into some pretty major health issues, which has created difficulties for them, causing them to need others to help them get around and take care of themselves and their home. They refuse to ask for help until there is absolutely no other option and sometimes when they finally ask, it’s almost too late. I hear from them often, that they don’t want to be a burden.
I think it is ingrained in our culture, especially in the older generations, that it is a shameful thing to ask for help. I think it comes from the idea that accepting charity is considered weak and wrong, as in, “If you haven’t earned it, you don’t deserve it.” or that they could be seen as a burden to others.
Furthermore, there is this notion that if someone helps you they need to be paid back in a way that equals the value or the worth of the help given in the first place, and they don’t want to be in their debt. So many people in our society suffer in silence, refusing to ask for help, to the angst and frustration of those who love and care them.
Help is a tricky, tricky thing and it doesn’t matter if you are the one asking or the one giving.
So, how do we become better a receiving and giving help? How do we stop the shame and stigma that comes from asking for help and receiving it?
Like I said earlier, it’s much easier to help humans in theory than it is in practice. At least for me it is!
I find it hard to remain open and vulnerable and kind when another person is being obtuse or ignorant or mean. And I don’t like putting myself out there, in uncomfortable situations. However, I think, I will not do as I swore to do the other evening after the math homework fight, I will continue to give help when asked and practice on my communication and observation skills.
I’m going to try to not let my fears and personal shame guide my actions. I will try and communicate my help better, I will observe what is working and what isn’t working and I will try and try again even if I fail the first time.
I will practice at not shutting down and not helping at all when asked for help in an area that is overwhelming or above my capabilities, but will look for ways that I can help even if it is only in a small way, maybe not completely meeting the need, but at least showing that I care enough to try.
As well I will continue to recognize the efforts of people helping me.
I will tell myself to not to feel ashamed when people do things for me, things that I think I should’ve been able to do for myself.
I will refuse to think that I’m not worth it, or that I am a burden.
I will accept help gratefully without worrying in the back of my head “Now how in the world am I going to pay them back?”
And I’m going to tell others to do the same!
So hear me! There is no shame in asking for help.
The only way we are going to get better at caring for one another is by speaking up and acting.
We teach our children to ask for help and then we tell them when they grow up to do it themselves, to stop asking for help. And then when they are old and can’t do things for themselves, they don’t know how to ask for help anymore. Funny story. True story.
I recommend practicing with nice, grateful, people (like friends), until you get better at helping.
But don’t stay there. Eventually the idea is you will be helping non-grateful, undeserving, unkind people (like some family). And why? Because they need help too, they just may not realize it yet, or they may be too scared or too ashamed to admit it.
And when someone helps you out, don’t be quick to refuse or pass it off as not a big deal, allow them the joy that comes from helping someone. It’s your gift to them.
Express your gratitude for their help, and don’t feel like you need to reciprocate. It’s their gift to you. Then take how that gift made you feel (hopefully loved, accepted, cared for, special) and pass it on to someone else.
Who knows, but if we all get this giving and asking and receiving thing down, maybe we (with God’s help) will slowly change the course of this world for the better!
Oh dear, the kid is home and asking for more help with his math homework.
I guess now, is as good a time as any to put into practice what I’ve been preaching!
By the way, can anyone come up with a better title for this post? I need help! (wink, wink, nudge, nudge)