Helping Each Other During Tough Times
Often we find ourselves burdened. Feeling as if everyone we come into contact with is reaching out a hand, wanting something from us—our money, influence, expertise, time. We aren’t cold or indifferent—we want to help others. We consider it a duty and a privilege to do so. And yet the constant barrage wears on us and we feel overwhelmed. As if we can’t possible do or take on one more thing—one more duty, responsibility, obligation or even hearing one more trouble of someone else’s without just collapsing.
We either give until it hurts or it breaks. And when faced with the barrage, it is we who hurt or break and collapse. Let me share a specific example:
A few years ago, a woman did a lot of counseling. Partially in a mentor role and partially in a “people in trouble find me and want help” role. She did what she could, of course. But the flow kept coming and coming and next thing she knew, she was physically ill.
There was a relationship between the two. She didn’t counsel and forget it or even assign the situation to its proper place, feeling confident she’d offered what she had to offer. She worried about these people and their plights. And she kept worrying. And kept worrying.
The very attribute that enabled her to listen and express empathy and constructive solutions was the very thing that was weighing on her and making her ill. She took everything in so deep and she held onto it. How could all that added stress and anxiety not make her ill?
There is an art to helping. An art to recognizing someone else’s pain and struggles. We see them and we want to help “fix” what’s broken because we genuinely and truly want others to be healthy and content. We do feel for others and we do hurt with them. But we must recognize that their issues are their issues and ultimately only they can fix them. That isn’t a “turn your back” or a blind eye to others comment. It’s a reality check that helpers need to keep in mind. Here are a few more:
Tips to Remember When Trying to Help
1. Some wounds are self-inflicted. That doesn’t mean one shouldn’t attempt to help. It means that if the consequences of a self-inflicted wound aren’t experienced, acknowledged, and responsibility isn’t accepted, odds are high that another similar self-inflicted wound will be inflicted. A second-chance, if you will, to get what is needed to avoid the challenge in the future.
Example: Touch a hot stove and you get burned. The solution isn’t to remove the stove. The solution is to respect the stove and to learn that if you touch it when it’s hot, you will get burned. The objective is to learn to not touch a hot stove.
Why is that the better solution? Because you can’t follow someone around through life and remove every hot stove that might be in that person’s path.
I used the stove because it’s easy to illustrate the point. You can apply it to self-inflicted challenges and see the benefit in identifying, accepting and finding a constructive solution—usually seated within. Hard lessons we don’t have to repeat over and again give us more content time and less anxious time.
2. We can’t fix other people’s challenges. We can listen, guide, teach, share. We can seek or refer to others who can listen, guide, teach, share, or instruct. But no matter how many people listen, guide, offer advice, share tools or coping skills, in the end, these are suggestions or recommendations. It is up to the person with the challenge to choose what to do to fix his or her challenge. And then to do the work required to actually fix the challenge—which might be none of the suggestions, but a new one that occurred to the person as a result of your discussions.
3. Offering help, giving help, doesn’t obligate the person to take it. It doesn’t obligate and it doesn’t mean that your suggestions or recommendations are in fact the best solution to the challenge for this person. Remember, situations relayed are not the whole picture. They’re a snapshot of a situation that includes only what the person wants to share and chooses to share at that time. The person with the challenge has the best big-picture view. So whatever that person ends up doing, you can acknowledge that she or he is doing what s/he feels is best in this situation.
4. No offense, no judgment. Often people help others and then are frosted because their advice is ignored or amended. If you’d done what I said, you wouldn’t be in this mess, and now you want me to help you again? This happens. And while it might or might not be justified, it’s never constructive. When someone ignores your advice, you must remember that this is their life and not yours. They should do what they feel is best. Your advice is your opinion—sought because it is respected and desired. But it is not up to you to dictate what someone else does; that’s their choice. Ultimately, they’re going to live with the choices they make—and they, not you, will be responsible for those choices. Of course, they should be their own. And you should not judge them for their choices.
Listen, we learn as much from our mistakes as we do from our successes. Of course, we don’t want anyone to make mistakes that do them irreparable harm. Of course, we wish to spare others hard, painful lessons. And we can—if they choose to listen and form their own opinion and it proves sound.
We shouldn’t fool ourselves. We do what we can to help others avoid stepping in the mud puddles we’ve stepped in. Some will, some won’t; they’ll step in other mud puddles—and next time, that same person might be sharing his or her experience with us and offering us advice.
You see, we all have challenges and tough times. We will all continue to have challenges and tough times. Fortunately, we have each other to help during these tough times. We all have the opportunity to have or to be a mentor.
© 2015, Vicki Hinze. Hinze is the award-winning, USA Today bestselling author of nearly thirty novels in a variety of genres including, suspense, mystery, thriller, and romantic or faith-affirming thrillers. Her latest release is The Marked Bride, Shadow Watchers, Book 1. She holds a MFA in Creative Writing and a Ph.D. in Philosophy, Theocentric Business and Ethics. Hinze’s online community: Facebook. Books. Twitter. Contact.www.vickihinze.com. Subscribe to Vicki’s Newsletter.
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