I’ve always been in a helping profession, even while teaching or directing.
However, with friends and family, I have less objectivity than at work. With family, I want to jump in to rescue, to change, to provide tools. I want to help. But recently I received strong indications that my help was a bit of a hindrance. In one case I sent an email to a few people, full of options of how we all could help some others. Many people do this, but most often they focus on a world crisis. This was personal, between a few people. Though I got a discussion going, some of it was, “what are you thinking, Leigh?” Apparently some levels of help are overkill.
I could tell she was feeling a bit of stress. When I got off the phone I realized, maybe there is a reason for her hesitations. Maybe she doesn’t need me coaching her about her future. Maybe she can simply enjoy the present and see how the future unfolds. Maybe I can simply listen.
Listening is the Best Form of Help
Sometimes help is better when you simply listen, let others take care of themselves, and learn their own lessons. If I listened instead of “helped,” I wouldn’t have sent that email. The end result could have been the same, but without the overkill. If I simply listened to my sister, maybe she wouldn’t have felt stress. I don’t know. I only know the path I chose.
This can be frustrating. I know I offer objective, listening-type help to students, colleagues, employees. But with family, I get too close and can’t see my own helpful offerings with the same objectivity.
However, I believe that everything happens for a reason, and sometimes that reason is to learn a lesson. In this case the lesson is to let others learn their own lesson.
This isn’t a fairy tale world. We aren’t always rescued by the prince. If we were, wouldn’t stay in a situation long enough to figure out how to resolve it the next time. We need to NOT be rescued long enough to figure out the solution on our own.
I’m a firm believer that we repeat our lessons until we learn them. If someone else rescues us, we don’t learn those lessons.
There are times when help is needed. These are:
1. When someone asks.
2. When it involves a child and you can help their development.
I picture helping as a side-by-side venture. With you having equal power or decision-making to the person you help.
But what if we simply support? I see support as providing a backup, a source to lean on, to cheer. They are still the leader in their lesson. They make the final decision. They don’t need a prince to rescue them. They need stairs to walk down themselves.
Whether we support family, friends, students or staff, everyone has life lessons to learn. It is up to us to support them while they build those stairs.