This post first appeared at the Crossroads over four years ago. I thought it was time to dust it off and repost it, especially since I and others have been dealing with the issue of “helpful(?)” people lately…
In response to some of the blogs and vlogs posted on DeafRead and elsewhere lately that have focused on the topic of helping others, Ocean shares a bit from some of the lessons on ethics which she has studied and teaches to others. Perhaps this will give you some food for thought on what “help” actually means, and how we can go about helping others in the proper way…
photo by night nurse
Everyone wants to help others… that’s natural. You see someone struggling with something you know you could easily do, and your first reaction is probably the desire to go over and offer to give them a hand.
But the important thing to remember is this – offer first. And if your offer is refused, then stand aside and let the person do it himself.
This doesn’t mean that you have to walk out of the room. It’s perfectly OK to say “that’s fine…if you change your mind and do want my help, just give me a holler.”
It’s not perfectly OK to breath down their necks, or point things out over their shoulders, or keep nagging them to accept your help.
It’s flat wrong to take it from them and do it for them.
It’s just plain stupid to take it from them, do it for them, and then expect them to be grateful to you!
You see, my friend…people like to do things themselves.
At a very deep level, everyone realizes that doing stuff for themselves is part of the growing process. That without that sort of hands on manipulation, they will not learn the lesson they need to learn. There is also a great drive to be independent; to be able to take care of themselves. Not to mention that doing something yourself is the only way to be sure it will be done the way you want it done.
Some of us are taught to wait patiently and let our parents show us many times, so they are sure that we will never make a mistake. We become afraid of trying until we are sure that we can succeed.
Some of us are basically ignored, and learn that we are completely on our own. We are shocked if someone offers to help, and don’t have the slightest idea what to do with the offer. Asking for either permission or guidance is totally foreign to us.
Some of us are never allowed to try our own hands at all. We become used to having things done for us, and tend to just stand there looking blankly at the tools if we are expected to do something ourselves.
Some of us are given the chance to try as soon as we want it, and encouraged whether we succeed or fail. We tend to look at life as a series of challenges, and we enjoy challenges.
These are just a few of the ways that we have been taught to react to help, and don’t take into account the differences in personalities that we were born with.
The point is, people have different reactions to offers of help, and want different amounts of it.
Here, as in everything else, you must let the other person tell you what they want and need. Look at it from their point of view. Allow them to grow at their own pace.
The most important thing is not to take over for them, not to do anything for them unless they ask you to.
If you do, you aren’t helping at all. You are butting in.
It’s not polite.
It’s not responsible.
And it’s not your job.
Special thanks to Robin Wood – Pagan leader, author, artist, and teacher extraordinaire – whose writings on ethics (including her excellent book on the subject – “When, Why…If”) have played a key role in helping me to develop my own understanding of living an ethical life.