How To Be Helpful

The old saying goes, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.” I believe this is true.
Then again, sometimes we try to lead a horse to water and the horse isn’t even thirsty. 
There are times when we think we are doing the right thing. There are times when we’re only trying to be helpful. But there is something we tend to forget.
Help is a reciprocal agreement. Help has nothing to do with me or you. Help is not about saying the right thing or offering the best possible suggestion. Actually, in crucial times, help is often extremely quiet because listening is usually the most helpful thing we can do. 

I’ve seen people lose family. I’ve been to funerals where parents were there to bury their children. I have seen this and noticed others look to say the most perfect, heartfelt thing. Yet, they forget to realize that sometimes the best thing to say is the easiest and most simplest thing. The words “I love you,” do a magical thing for people. Saying, “I’m here,” is enough. And sometimes, saying nothing at all but just being present is the most beneficial thing one can do for another human being.

I have sat with people in hospitals. I have been to rehabilitation centers and I have been in jails. I have been at meetings where people talk and talk, and yet, the person they were there to help didn’t have the chance to say anything.

Is this helpful?

We have to remember that help is a two way relationship. There is no hierarchy. There is no matriarchal or patriarchal role when it comes to help. And, let’s not forget, not everyone wants help. Let’s not forget that like it or not, there is always the right to refuse. 

I have met with people that were in the middle of the worst circumstances, and yet, still, I watched them walk out of hospitals against medical advice.
I’ve seen people lose their patience with this. I’ve seen people be mad that someone didn’t accept the help that was offered.
I’ve noticed people are insulted by this and I’ve found myself here too — looking to give advice and somehow taking the fact that someone chose not to listen as an insult.
But this is not help. Help is a charitable act.. Help has nothing to do with self because real help is selfless.
Also, the best help is often anonymous, which means no one has to know because bragging or telling others is not about your charitable nature. In fact, bragging about your ability to help cancels out the charity and destroys your donation.
It’s one thing to be proud of your service; it’s another thing to talk about this like a badge of pride for others to see.

I have been part of the recovering community for a long time. The second A in 12-step fellowships stands for the word “Anonymous,” and yet, I have witnessed members abandon the honor of someone’s anonymity. 

There is something we call sponsorship, in which, to have a sponsor is to have someone accompany you along in your 12-step journey. Whether your recovery is from alcohol, drugs, food, gambling, or otherwise, this relationship is to be honored as a means towards personal recovery.
There is no hierarchy in this relationship. Instead, this is peer to peer.
The relationship is mutually beneficial. And this is usually the case; however, there are times when I’ve heard members discuss who they sponsor or they talk about how many people they sponsor — and they talk about this with a degree of self-serving pride.
Meanwhile, they’ve forgotten the mere root of the program is based on the dignity of personal anonymity.

As a means to preserve my anonymity in all aspects of my life, I do not enter into deep conversations with people that would not honor me the same way that I would honor them. I do not look to them for help nor would I look to entertain their advice.
But life is not an A.A. meeting. Life is an obstacle course with people that have their own agendas and rest assured, not everyone plays fairly and not everyone cares. This is true. Not everyone is a friend and not everyone is an enemy either. This is just life. The best practice is to find people that suit you best.

When it comes to help, I have learned the best help is seldom the easiest to accept. I’ve learned that help is reciprocal.
This is a two way street and serves as an open conversation that moves back and forth.
Help is part listening, part caring, part keeping your mouth shut about this, and part being non-judgmental; it’s part support and partly acting as a resource broker so that the person in need can find what fits them the best. But under all conditions, help is not something to be bragged about or boasted to a group of coworkers to look cool in the break room or act as if you are the great “I AM.”
Once anonymity is broken or once something like this is bragged about or spoken of, the end result is the charity behind your help has become selfish; and furthermore, you’ve just degraded the person you helped by shaming them.

If you want to be helpful, then just listen. Learn to practice active listening, which means you’re asking open questions that require more than a yes or no answer. This acknowledges your understanding of what’s being told and then through encouragement, this allows the person to go on. 

Helping someone is not about you.
This is about them.
It’s not about what you know, what you’ve been through, or what you do in your life.
Sometimes, help is quiet. Sometimes, help is unspoken and just an action.
And sometimes, the best way to help someone is to simply leave them alone.

4 thoughts on “How To Be Helpful

  1. I really struggle with this issue.. I talk a lot about trying to help my sister in my blog to try and make sense of it. … not to brag but reading this the fact that I do so gives me an uneasy feeling.. Lately I try to listen to her and I know I talk too much sometimes.. I have never had a sponsor though lately I do talk to someone older in sobriety. so many times you are right though, we may think we are helping and what we are doing is not or may be self serving or a way of relieving anxiety.. its a big struggle to know the right way to go.

  2. Pingback: The best way to help someone – Emerging From The Dark Night

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