Choosing When to Help and When Not to Help

by Christine Sherborne -

For most of us it is natural to want to be helpful and fix problems for friends and family if we can but very often the best action you should take is no action at all. 

Sometimes I find that I am helping the same person repeatedly and nothing improves. Have you found that you do the same?

Maybe the person doesn’t want your help but just a sounding board to talk through their problem. And sometimes, the person may not realize that they need help and indeed cannot be helped.

I would like to offer you some suggestions that will enable you to decide when to help and when to leave well enough alone.
  • One of the first considerations may be to ask, have you the skills, time, money or empathy to give to this person?
  • Are they asking for what they want you to do, or what would be best for them?
  • Can they help themselves? 
  • Are you the best person to help or would someone else be more useful?

So should you help or not?

You should always do your best to help whenever the person who is asking is a child or perhaps elderly or infirm, then you should always do what you can or to seek professional help for them.

For instance, a child may be suffering from some form of abuse and may be finding it difficult to express their feelings or tell you exactly what is happening to them. In this case, a gentle approach could get them to open up and talk to you.

Other situations that your family or friends may be going through that deserve your help can be during a time of grief or illness or financial strife that is not of their making.

As we all know, the events of recent times have caused a lot of people to lose their homes or jobs through no fault of their own. If you are in a position to help them get back on their feet, then perhaps you should do what you can.

It could be that one of your friends is trying hard to improve their skills or lifestyle, and you could help with that process. In this case, you could choose to help them along with encouragement or in a more practical way.

So, a good way to decide whether to help or not is when the person is either unable to help themselves through no fault of their own or when they are doing the best they can and simply need a leg up.

When not to help!

If your friend or family member has put themselves in a deep hole of their own making, recklessly ignoring basic common sense and done similar things in the past, you may have tried many times to help them make wiser decisions but you are wasting your time!

These people are often spendthrifts, drug abusers, violent and untrustworthy. 

Others can be energy vampires, those who suck your energy dry and care for no-one but themselves and their own needs. 

We all know people like this, don’t we? Then there are people who refuse to change their beliefs and lifestyle choices that continually give birth to new problems.

We all know people who believe they are superior and think that they deserve the undying devotion and help of all their friends. These people are often quite capable of dealing with their own misfortunes but choose to use the resources of others instead.

Finally ask yourself the question – should you help someone who never attempts to help others themselves? These people often feel that they are justified in accepting help and never have any intention of giving it.

Sometimes we help because it makes us feel better. This can often end up being detrimental to the person receiving the help and in the long term to you too.

When considering whether to help, make sure that your motives are right, that the person will benefit from your assistance and that they actually want your help.

One last point I would like to make is that you should make sure that you do have the resources, whether time, money or energy and that by helping you will not be creating new problems for yourself.

Part of being fellow travelers on this planet is being able to help each other through our journey and by doing so we can give and receive great joy and satisfaction.

Why not take a few moments to consider how you can help someone or perhaps to reconsider if you should continue to squander your own resources helping someone with no effect.

“A kind and compassionate act is often its own reward.” 
--William John Bennett

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