It’s said repeatedly, in many different ways, over the course of a day.
May I help you? How can I help? What can I do for you? Is there something you need help with? What can I do to help? What do you need from me? I’ll help you. I can take care of that. Let me help.
Be careful with how, when, and why you offer help. You may be saying “if you need an extra set of hands, I can assist. Which is totally appropriate…except for when it’s not. Often what you’re saying is, “I don’t think you can handle this so I better jump in and help you”.
Many people are, by nature, service oriented. The desire to serve is in their heart. Their purpose in life is to help others. It’s because of these givers that non-profit organizations exist. When someone is in need, people with a heart of service are there. Bless these people. The world needs them. And really, the world could use more of them. It’s a noble calling…
…except for when it’s not.
There’s a fine line between helping and disabling. Helping in the right way serves a true need. Helping in the wrong way can be weakening. Helping in the wrong way or at the wrong time sends the message that “you can’t be trusted to do this yourself” or “you’re not capable”. It hinders empowerment and accountability. Instead of building strength and ownership it creates dependency and builds helplessness.
The need to help or serve, when applied appropriately, is a necessary and cherished element of humanity. That need becomes a selfish endeavor when it negatively impacts growth, independence, or the development of strength and resiliency in those you’re helping. From there, it’s a downward spiral to co-dependency leading to guilt, stress, over-commitment, and the victimization of self. Instead of feeling fulfilled, you feel exhausted and empty.
Whether you’re dealing with direct reports, co-workers, children, family, or friends the practice is the same.
So the next time you think someone needs help, be open to lending a hand--but in the right way, at the right time, and in the right proportions. Otherwise it’s not help at all, is it?