Monday, March 18, 2013

What’s More Painful–Needing Help or Asking For It?

I was reminded this weekend when a friend reached out for help that so many people who need help are afraid or hesitant to ask for it.

Anyone who has ever been in a place where they needed help but couldn’t dare to ask knows the paralysis that such a dilemma can create.

On the one hand, they may face terrible consequences if they don’t find a solution to whatever challenge threatens to steamroll over them.

On the other hand, even if they have identified someone who can help them overcome these challenges, their pride may not allow them to ask for help.

Their ego attempts to convince them that the pain they will face in the act of asking for help will be FAR greater than the pain experienced when the light at the end of the tunnel turns out to be a train.

While this is almost always never true, we somehow manage to rationalize such a belief anyway.  I know full well what the pain of this structural tension feels like – I’ve been there.

And even though there is nothing wrong and everything right about asking for help, many people can’t seem to do it.

Ironically, many of these same people will get frustrated if someone they know needs help and won’t accept it.

I’ve been there too! :-)

While the reasons are probably as diverse as the number of people who hold such beliefs, I believe Ray Dalio said it best when he noted:

I believe that the biggest problem that humanity faces is an ego sensitivity to finding out whether one is right or wrong and identifying what one's strengths and weaknesses are.

Asking for help forces us to recognize where our strengths and weaknesses are and forces (or at least invites) us to do something about them.

And while many of us chalk up our resistance to asking for help as being based on pride, independence or something similar, in truth, by not asking for help we are able to avoid being realistic about something inside that we would rather not think about.

Unfortunately, by not thinking about it we are also avoiding an opportunity to overcome it once and for all.

When we are unable to ask for help, we are denying ourselves and others the opportunity to explore our true potential and the Life lessons that await us.

Even if the Life lesson is merely … how to ask for help or how to accept it.

As Paulo Coelho notes:

You drown not by falling into a river, but by staying submerged in it.

I see this problem in business all the time.  Many people would rather see companies explode, destroying the livelihoods of their employees, rather than admit that they need help.

We need to help others more by reaching out and making it easier for them to ask.  Sometimes when someone perceives the door to assistance as being locked, it is important to leave the door slightly ajar, allowing the light and warmth from within to invite inside those who struggle.

Don’t force them to come inside.  It must be an act of their own volition in order that the help offered be most effective for the receiver and the provider.

Someday it may be one of us knocking on the door … unless we are as fearful as those that we once judged for not wanting our help.

And if you need help, you will be surprised (and relieved) to discover that asking for it is usually not as painful, embarrassing or humiliating as you’ve built it up in your mind.  In fact, the release that is produced in overcoming the fear of asking is often just what is needed to propel your Life closer towards your ultimate potential (which includes better enabling you to help others).

Ego can be a great enabler and a great disabler.

We need to make sure we know which way it is guiding us.

Do you know?

Are you sure?

In service and servanthood,


Addendum – March 18, 2013

A reader indicated to me that my opinions in this blog are wrong and imply that I am promoting an apathy-laden, passive or “dormant” response to people who need help.  He went on to say that “the helpless” can’t wait for people to respond to their needs – that action is needed immediately even if help is not requested.

My musing is not in reference to those who are so far gone that they are doomed unless someone steps in on their behalf or the people without a voice who need a hero to enable their voice.

There is a big difference between feeling powerless and being powerless and everyone who needs help is not necessarily helpless.

The subject of helping the truly helpless is a different, more complex subject that also demands answers.  After all, we as a society are only as enabled as the weakest or meekest in our society.  How we deal with those who are most in need is an indicator of how empowered (or not) our society is.

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