How to Help Without Hurting
Most people want to help other people. Especially in this generation. I talk to women all the time who want to make a difference in someone else’s life. I feel the same way. I’ve always been big on volunteering and giving back. Like the women I talk to, I want to help.
Sometimes helping people can actually hurt them despite the best intentions. If you really want to help people you have to mindful of what the end result will be. In order words, after you’d done your good deed will this person be better off or worse off in the long run? Help people without hurting them. I first heard this phrase on a mission trip in Colombia. There’s actually a few Christian books on the subject.
“Give a man a fish and he eats for a day teach a man to fish and he can feed himself for life.”
Here’s how you can help someone without hurting them:
1. Tell the Truth
You set people up for success by telling them the truth. If you have a blog you probably see a ton of ads on Facebook about how someone went from $0 to six figures in six months. People like to tell things that are technically true. “My last client just quit her job.” But it’s misleading at best. A lie at worst. Someone saying they or their client quit their job implies that their business or side hustle generated enough money to cover their household expenses. Yet oftentimes people quit their jobs with no significant money coming in. They moved in with their parents or boyfriend. They retired or got laid off with a severance package.
I’m not saying you have to go tell all your business, but selectively tell parts of your situation that imply something that isn’t true is actually hurting the people you want to help. They won’t be prepared for the journey. They won’t realize there even is a journey. They think it’s six months down the road. And when they get there and realize they’re no closer that they were they give up. They don’t have the grit or the discipline to stick it out because they weren’t told to develop those characteristics. Tell the truth to help your clients.
A family member was buying a house. Her boyfriend told her he would help with the down payment. Yet, when it was time he went AWOL. He didn’t have the money or didn’t want to give the money. Either way, he led her on and caused her a lot of undue stress. Eventually she found other arrangements, but his truthtelling would have helped her more than his lie. Sometimes we tell a lie to create the appearance of helping, but eventually it comes out. Things are made worst.
If you’re giving someone feedback you can’t just give the good stuff and withhold the constructive criticism. Similar to what Pastor Victoria Osteen said at Love Your Life conference, “It’s not fair to not communicate boundaries.” It’s not fair to give someone honest feedback about how they’re doing. It could be in business, at work, in a relationship or another type of situation. When you withhold feedback believing that you’re protecting someone’s feelings you are hurting them. They don’t have key information that would help them improve.
Whether explicit or implicit don’t mislead others by giving them false expectations. It could be completely innocent and with good intentions, but it’s harmful.
2. Don’t Do it For Them
You don’t want to do things them all the time. It’s better to show them. You can help them identify resources or classes, but the responsibility should remain with them. Don’t attempt to relieve someone of their own responsibilities. In Colombia, there’s a trade school of sorts that teaches baking, sewing, jewelry making, hair styling and computers. They are helping the community by giving them a trade so that they can earn money. They could just give them money, but that wouldn’t set them up for long term success.
Ever thought something would be easier if you just did it yourself? So you do it yourself instead of teaching the other person how to do it? You could be handicapping them in a sense. If a certain activity is apart of someone’s role or responsibility don’t do it for them. Let them handle it so that they learn how and it allows you to free yourself up to do other tasks. You would not only be helping them you would be helping yourself.
Don’t do daily tasks of living life for someone. I dated someone who was too insecure to handle business over the phone. If he needed to call the bank or an employer he wouldn’t. And then I’d step in and “help” him. But I was hurting him and myself. Nobody wants to take care of someone else’s business for them all the time. There were many fights over it. I was tired of handling him business and man. I felt like he was my son at times!
If someone is never forced to get over their insecurities he or she never will. They’ll always depend on someone else to take care of things for them. And if the person doesn’t want to they’ll just go without or find someone else.
If you’re the one handling it you’ll be driven crazy. Doing it for them might be helping them (in the short run) but it’s hurting you. Help others without hurting yourself.
You give people a sense of independence when you allow them to do what they need to do on their own. When you do everything for them you are helping to create a co-dependent person. You are helping to stifle them in every area of their life. If they can’t call a doctor when they’re sick will they be able to call a mortgage broker when they want to buy a house?
We all pitch in and help people we love when they’re in a financial bind and financial woes can hit us all. I’m not saying not to ever give someone money to someone in need. I’m saying be mindful of when, how, to whom, and for what you give the money. Someone who knows that they will be bailed out won’t save their money. They won’t balance their check book. They won’t live within their means. If you handle someone’s finances for them repeatedly you’re hurting them. In the short run it feels like you’re helping. And if you don’t “help” you believe that you will be hurting them. But that’s rarely the case. The person whose back is up against the wall will figure it out. The person who has always has someone to bail them out won’t.
It’s similar to the trade school in Colombia. If they donated money instead of building a school the community wouldn’t have a way to create long-term earnings. They would always be dependent on the next church to come to town to supply their needs. If you do do something for them make sure it’s the right thing. Understand the real needs that need to be solved for and help in that area. But help in a way that enables them to continue on progressively even after you leave or withdraw support.
3. Let Them Find Their Own Way
I tend to get passionate about things quickly. And then I want the whole world to know about this great thing. I can push my passions on others. This thing is so great everyone must want it. At least that’s what I think. But if people are chasing my passions who’s chasing theirs? Someone will follow me because I talked this thing up. It’s the best thing since sliced bread – to me. They could be misguided. Sometimes we do things because we’re passionate about them. Other times we have a fear of missing out (in part because a passionate person told us we would be missing out). Help people without hurting them by allowing them to find their own passions. Resist the urge to put your beliefs on others.
Don’t assume that you know what people care. Don’t assume you know what they need or are interested. Let them find their own way.
If someone so happens to share our passions they still need to find their own opportunities. I believe when you tell life that you want something life makes you take a test. It doesn’t just roll out the red carpet. It’s a test of grit, perseverance, consistency, and discipline. You have to take a test in know how. When you first started riding a bike you didn’t know what you were doing. You didn’t just jump on and ride out into the sunset. You had to practice. You had to study. This blog requires me to take a test. I have to know traffic generating techniques and personal growth best practices. I have to be consistent and disciplined.
The test proves that you want what you say you want. It says that you can handle it. When we give people opportunities we in essence remove the test – the test that every successful person has to take. So they not only don’t pass the test (because they didn’t have to take it) they also have no idea how to work for something. They don’t know how to study or be disciplined. They don’t know how to prepare for the test.
I want to give people opportunities because nobody gave me one. Everything I have I’ve had to work for. I’m SOO independent. I find a way. And I’ve learned that other people need to find their own way to their own opportunities as well. I’m hurting them by making the path easy for them.
Of course, we should give opportunities when we can just not at the beginning. A person should have some skin in the game. They should have passed a few tests on their own first. If they sit down to take a “goal” test when they haven’t studied they won’t pass. If they take hold of the goal before they’ve taken the test they won’t be able to hold on to it.
Help Without Hurting
Whatever we do from the goodness of our hearts should set people up for long-term, independent success. Sometimes we are so touched by a situation or story we just want to make it all better as quickly as possible. Resist the urge. Whether in your faith walk, with your children or in your profession be someone who helps people without hurting them.
Whether everyday tasks, at work or in personal finances when you do things for someone all the time they can develop a learned helplessness. They don’t know how to problem solve. They don’t know how to generate ideas or improve processes. They can no longer do anything for themselves. People who can’t do anything for themselves can’t live their best life. They can only live the life that other people will give to them. When you help people without hurting them you enable them to life healthier lives.