Helping comes naturally, but do you know the dangers of helping others?
Has it ever happened to you that the more you help, the more they depend on you?
That instead of improving after receiving your help, they remain the same or get worse?
I love this phrase from Oscar Wilde:
And I highlight “best intentions” because generally, people act with very good intentions, the problem is that they only think in the short-term.
And an action that could be considered adequate in the short-term, could NOT be good in the long-term.
The dangers of helping others
Danger 1: Making them more unable
Imagine that a person you love can’t do something for themselves. It could be a friend, your partner, your son…
Every time they need something, they ask for help and you, with the best intentions, facilitate the process, and do what they can’t do for them.
It could be anything, from a task to starting a conversation, or preparing a project…
They “believe” they can’t, so they ask for help because they think you are more “capable” than them.
If you help this person once, there’s no problem, because no one is born knowing and they need to be shown how to do some things.
If this type of behavior (and by that I mean your help) remains over time, I’d like you to ask yourself these questions:
- How does that person feel just after receiving your help (ie, short-term)?
I imagine that content, grateful, happy…
- How do you feel?
I guess satisfied for having helped that person whom you love and aid.
Now, think now in the long term:
- What will happen the next time that person, who you usually help, wants to do something by themselves?
- Do you think they’ll feel more or less able to do something on their own?
Every time you help a person to do something that they need to learn to do for themselves, you’re contributing, without realizing it, to make them feel more incapable.
Because feeling able, knowing that one can, is acquired through experience, not through other people’s experience.
It’s no good doing things for others so they feel able. It doesn’t work like that.
They will feel able as they do, they may get it wrong, and do it again, until, over time, they succeed.
Danger 2: Making them more insecure
Imagine the same situation as in the previous example.
They feel insecure and as they’re afraid of making mistakes, they ask for help or tell you to do it for “them”.
With the best intentions and a will to help that person, you do what frightens them.
- What will happen next time they have to do something they’re afraid of?
- Will they feel confident or more insecure about doing it?
I think you know the answer.
Fears are overcome by facing and confronting them, not by letting others face them for us.
That’s why, if you really want to help, think about the dangers of helping others and let them face what they fear.
That’s the best way to help.
Danger 3: Maintaining the problem
This danger is the consequence of the previous two.
Here’s an example from one of my clients.
She feels anxious every time she leaves the house, so every time she has to come to see me, she asks her husband to bring her.
Her husband, seeing how badly his wife is doing and with the best intentions, asks for a few hours off from work to take his wife to her consultation.
Seen that way, one might think that he’s an exemplary husband, but, if you think long-term…
- how much is this helping his wife overcome her problem?
Because she manages to avoid facing her anxiety.
And her husband, without knowing it, is helping maintain her anxiety problem.
So once again I remind you, be careful with helping others, as you could be maintaining their background problem.
There is a popular saying that says:
“If you give a man a fish, he’ll eat that day, but if you teach a man to fish, he’ll eat every day of his life”
That’s the idea of long-term thinking, or of avoiding the dangers of helping others.
- If the other person needs you to tell them what to do, teach them to think for themselves.
- If the other person has a problem, help them find their own solutions.
- If the other person says they can’t, encourage them to try.
- If the other person says they are afraid, help them face their fears.
What you should always bear in mind is:
“Don’t do for others what they can do for themselves”
And if you notice that they can’t do it alone, focus on “helping them to be able to”, not on doing it for them.
That way, you’ll restore their self-confidence.
If you think there’s someone who needs to rethink the way in which they help others, don’t hesitate to share this article.