Milk trickles across the kitchen floor. My six year old pulls half a roll of paper towels off the dispenser and deposits them on the puddle. Meanwhile, liquid seeps under the refrigerator and stove. My skin crawls. I want to jump in and help her. I think “If I don’t help her, she won’t get it right and the kitchen will smell like an old sock.”
Which isn’t help at all. Fear maybe. Control maybe. Stopping the madness maybe. But not help.
One of life’s biggest joy-robbers can happen when we try to help others. What starts as kindness and giving can quickly twist to unhelpful – or even breed resentment.
Myths that get us stuck when helping others:
- They need me. No, they don’t. Unless they’re an infant or toddler. Beyond that, most people can figure out what they need and get it. It may take lots of tries. It may make a lot of messes. What they need is your encouragement to grow with God. To build their own independence and life skills. They need your listening ear, love, support, and perhaps the gentle nudge of a suggestion that guides toward a better choice or action.
- I’m only valuable if I’m helping. Nope. You’re valuable because God says you are. Because you’re created unique, amazing, and with a purpose in life. Your worth is not based on what you do or who you help, but on Whose help and love and strength you rely.
- If I don’t help, they’ll never stop bugging me about it. If this is true, it’s time for some boundaries. The biggest help in this case is to help them take responsibility for their own work. Assure them they’ll figure it out. Support them by helping them brainstorm the best options. And put in a little distance in the relationship if they need that to build trust in themselves again.
- If I help now, I’ll have help later when I need it. Reciprocity is a real and important principle, but this, if we’re really honest, is more about fear. It’s really saying “I need to do this right so I’ll have help later on” instead of trusting God will provide every need. When this comes up, find scriptures to rely on – invest your trust in the One who will never disappoint.
- If I don’t help, I’m not a nice person. While this may SEEM true in the moment, help offered based on the above myths isn’t nice, it’s self-seeking. Nice is to love that person, to cheer them on, to give advice as they seek it from you, to let them know you believe in them and you trust they’ll do their very best.
Does catching these myths as they arise mean we stop helping people? Does it mean we ignore the guy on the street corner, stop donating clothes and money to charities and expect everyone to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps? No way! It just means we’re helping with a cheerful heart — That the motives behind our altruism truly support the people we love and want to help.
“Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” – 2 Corinthians 9:7