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Written by Vicki Hinze

On May 21, 2005

“When you dig another out of their troubles, you find a place to bury your own.”

I came across this quote and read it .

I thought, yes. You always set your own troubles aside when you stop to help someone else. This is a good thing. By reaching out to help others, you help yourself.

Then I read it again.

Digging another out of their troubles doesn’t resolve your own, it merely postpones the time when you must deal with them. I guess that can be considered burying your troubles–moving them out of your way so that you get a respite from them. Everyone benefits from a little reprieve now and then.

So which did the author mean? I can but wonder. I guess the way we each interpret it depends on how we look at stopping to help others at all.

If we’re optomists, we believe that there is good in the mere act of helping. That it serves purpose, and that purpose is noble and worthy all on its own. Our troubles may not be lighter when we return to them, but perhaps they feel lighter because they are balanced by the good we’ve done elsewhere.

If we’re pestimests, we believe that no matter what we do for others, our troubles will be front and center and we’re just setting ourselves up to be used. I mean, when we need help and put out a call, who answers? No good fairy jumps in to help resolve our challenges. So, okay, we have a duty to assist others. So we do it. Grudgingly, because after all, after we’d done helping this one out, another will come along, and then another, and when we’re all done there, we still have our own troubles to deal with and we know we’ll be dealing with them alone.

The optomist is going to be happier, I would think. The pessimest is going to be resentful.

But if you think about it, they should both be a little less happy and a little less resentful. Consider….

When you jump in too quickly to help someone, you deny them the opportunity to help themselves. What message does this send to them? That you believe they can’t do and so you must. Is that helpful? Really?

Not to say you let someone drown in a sea of trouble if you can help. But make sure that they both need and desire help–and are trying to help themselves–before you step in.

The pessimist resents the duty and time and effort spent on others that takes time and effort away from his own interests or troubles. But if the pessimist has the ability and the skills to assist others, then shouldn’t s/he be grateful? How much heavier would the load of his own troubles be if he lacked those assets? Without them, he’d be seeking someone to assist him.

So I read the comment yet a third time.

“When you dig another out of their troubles, you find a place to bury your own.” -Anonymous

And I choose my own interpretation of it.:

Digging out of anything leaves a hole. It can be refilled with dirt or water. Either way, you’re going to get a little mud.

So you help others judiciously, accepting that some will be better for it, some won’t. (Mud.) Some will appreciate it, some won’t. (Mud.) Sometimes you’ll feel gratified and sometimes you’ll feel used. (Mud.)

The important thing is to appreciate the mud. In it, is your humanity.

Vicki Hinze

Trust is earned, one book at a time.”
–Vicki Hinze

Note: I edit books and professional correspondence. But I do NOT edit email or this blog. This is chat time for me, so if the grammar is goofed or a word’s spelled wrong, please just breeze on past it. I’d appreciate it–and salute you with my coffee cup. 🙂

You are permitted to use the blog post above in its entirety, free of charge, provided you include the following text:
Copyright 2005. Vicki Hinze
Vicki Hinze is a multi-published author, who has a free library of her articles on writing–the craft, business and life–at


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