Growing up I dreamed of having 6 kids, going to Africa to help with missions, explored every opportunity to sponsor kids, I jumped at every opportunity to help others before considering what was involved.
I still do mind you, though I have improved a lot.
A lot of my desire to help others, was actually to feel good about myself; that I was contributing to the lives of others, to be seen as a hero.
It felt great when I did actually help others, though when there was a lull, when no one needed me, I felt really low. I couldn’t see my purpose.
The big question is: was I actually helping people?
It felt fake, it felt like I wasn’t helping people because they needed it, it felt like I was helping people because I needed it.
What was I doing wrong? I wanted to genuinely help people because I see everyone as valuable.
Through challenging myself, I came up with 5 questions to genuinely help people – and they all involved looking at myself:
• Do they actually need my help?
Usually we are in conversation when I hear of a need and my usual pattern involves me starting to think about what I could do to help. Though too often they are actually needing someone else to do something about it. They may need a social worker, counsellor or doctor? They may need their spouse, family member or friend to specifically help them. In that case, am I content to refer them on to someone more appropriate? Leading to my next point…
• Have I understood what they need help with?
Are they actually asking for practical help? Or are they just wanting the opportunity to explore things, get outside of their head and just vent to think clearly?
• Do I have the resources?
In times when they are actually asking for help, I need to consider if I have the resources. This does not necessarily mean can I carry out the task, it also includes how much is it going to cost me and those around me. Have I said yes to a number of different people recently? Do I have any looming deadlines that need priority? Have I had enough me time? Sleep, exercise and rest. If I don’t, I need to explore the next point…
• Is it urgent?
Can the request wait? I might have the resources available soon, can I say yes at a certain time? If the request can wait, I do not need to jump in with the help straight away and do a half job, I can wait and do my best job which would be more helpful in the long run.
• What does it mean for me if I say no?
Finally the biggest question of all. If I say no, what does that say about me? Does it mean I am a bad person? Or am I being genuine in wanting the best help for the other person and not promising myself when I am not able to?
After all, it is only when I say ‘no’ that my ‘yes’ truly has value.
As you can see, we can only help others when we invest in ourselves.