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Feb 28, 2024

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Helping Others

By Bryan Golden

We all depend on others.  Everyone is happy to receive help when they are in need.  But far fewer people are ready to offer help.  Helping others is one of the best ways to help yourself.  As with most things, there has to be a balance.  It’s self-destructive to be so focused on the needs of others that you neglect your own well being.

Help can take many forms and range from minor to major significance.  Perhaps your action is as routine as rushing to open the door for a stranger pushing a stroller or as significant as having an aging parent move in with you.

There are numerous ways to provide help.  You can interact on a one to one basis or you can work with a volunteer organization.  Much of the impact you will have on others will be on an interpersonal basis.

You can be there when someone needs to talk.  You can offer your time to help a friend with chores around their house.  You can baby-sit for a neighbor who is in a pinch.  You can give a ride to someone who’s car is in the shop.

Although you can offer assistance, you can’t fix someone else’s problems.  Each person is responsible for his or her own life.  When others turn to you rather than taking responsibility for their own situation, you have to draw a line as to how much time and effort you want to devote.

Some people may be grateful for your help.  Others may actually be resentful and can even turn against you.  If someone becomes bitter, it’s not your fault.  Resentment results when a person feels guilty about being helped or they feel they can’t repay you.

Whether or not to help someone financially is not an easy decision.  Money issues have the potential to cause rifts among family members or the closest of friends.  If you loan someone money, they may not feel an obligation to pay it back in a timely fashion or may think there is no need to repay it at all.

You, on the other hand, may not be comfortable asking for repayment because you don’t want to create a problem.  Or, if you do mention it, it’s informally.  The result is you feel taken advantage of.  In the end, the relationship suffers and may even end.

In addition to the potential problems associated with helping financially, the recipients rarely use the money to solve their problems.  Rather, they continue with the same behavior that caused the monetary difficulty in the first place.  After the money you provided is gone, they are in exactly the same position as they were originally and in need of more money.

Problems that require help can be unexpected, short term, temporary, and easily solvable.  Providing help for people in this category provides immediate relief.  More deep-seated problems are based on specific conduct.  An effective way to help these people is to show them ways to help themselves.  But remember that many people see themselves as victims rather than the cause.  These people are difficult to help.

Providing help to those in need is a great thing to do.  Help should be given for the sake of helping and not because you want something in return.  Whenever you make a difference, no matter how small, in someone’s life, both you and they will feel good.

Do what you can, whenever you can, to help.  Offer without being asked and don’t expect anything in return.  Some may not appreciate your efforts but many will.  Remember how you felt when someone helped you.

NOW AVAILABLE:  “Dare to Live Without Limits,” the book.  Visit www.BryanGolden.com or your bookstore. Bryan is a management consultant, motivational speaker, author, and adjunct professor. E-mail Bryan at bryan@columnist.com or write him c/o this paper. © 2023 Bryan Golden