Monday, June 30, 2008

Asking for help

I had a nice bike ride yesterday but was teary in church. Two people saw and gave me a hug after church and that helped a lot. The rest of the day was fine--I'm very lucky that I don't tend to get stuck in depression.

I am on the pastoral care committee for my church and we had a meeting yesterday evening. Someone brought up the topic of people not feeling it is ok to talk about their problems in church. I piped up with a general statement that grew out of my present situation, which almost everyone in the group knows (a couple of people who weren't at the last meeting may not know). I said I want to take a class in how to accept help. One person liked the idea very much--she wanted to take that class too--and others liked it in theory but either weren't sure people would come or thought it should be something other than a class (like a sermon).

The rector (which is what we Episcopalians call our senior pastor) said that he thought people didn't ask for help because they don't want to show weakness. I didn't respond immediately because the meeting had gone on too long already, but afterwards I sent him the following email:

I don’t think the primary reason people don’t ask for help is fear of appearing weak. I see several other reasons as important:

  • Other people have more serious problems--I shouldn’t ask for help because other people need it more
  • I don’t know what to ask for—I imagine there is a menu but I don’t know what is on it and I’m afraid I will disturb people if I ask for something that isn’t on the menu
  • I am afraid that other people will think I am asking for too much, taking more than my share
  • I don’t know at what point it is appropriate to ask for help and I don’t want to violate the unspoken rules
  • I’m afraid the unspoken rule is: If I can possibly do it myself then I shouldn’t ask for help. If it is only appropriate to ask for help when there is no other choice then I’m not sure I have reached that point

I think my wish for a class or workshop is on one level a wish for someone to tell me the unspoken rules. Clearly I’m stuck in wanting to be good, to do it right. (Beneath all that is fear that I don’t deserve help.) Instead of rules, what would actually help me is stories/testimonies of different kinds of help given and how the giver didn’t resent it, so I can imagine such scenarios.

I will give you an example. Is it appropriate to ask if someone (perhaps a current or former youth leader) would do practice driving with my son, who is 18 and hasn’t gotten his driver’s license? My son did drivers ed at school but wasn’t pushing to get his license and we dropped the ball on getting him out to practice. Or should I just pay a driving teacher to work with him?

I'm working on learning to ask for help, but I really don't know how.


Isis said...

My situation is different from yours, but a lot of what you said in this post resonates with me. Your reasons for not asking for help are ones that I can definitely agree with.

I think in the past the way i have approached the unspoken rules is never to get anywhere near them--only ask for help in what seem like truly life/death situations.

Then there have been the occasions of asking for help and not getting it (often for perfectly understandable reasons, some of which had nothing to do with me). That felt like horrible rejection AND a sense that I was asking too much.

What I am starting to think is that there are no set rules--more like a constantly moving line in the sand. This is part of what makes it so difficult. It is OK to ask a friend for help, but then if something "worse" (??) happens to them, you are expected to PROVIDE help.

It's all very confusing.

I think a good class on asking for help should address those complexities.

And as always, I appreciate the honesty of your posts. I thought that with your last post too.

Pauline said...

A very tough question. I hated asking for help. Near the end someone finally told me they really did not want to come sit with Daddy because they were afraid he might die on their watch.

Very understandable. Other wise, they were afraid they would do something wrong. What it tells us, is that we are all afraid.

I think asking for help with the driving, or anything that a person does normally should relieve any issues they might have and help you out too.

If its something you would gladly do for one of your friends, then go ahead and ask.

Joann said...

If no one accepts gifts then the giver is denied the blessing of giving. I believe that it is a part of the "Do unto others as they would do unto you." How does this statement work if you don't every allow someone to bless you? Faith and works are not a one way strett. You can't always be the giver. Sometimes you need to graciously accept the gift and know that you are allowing the giver the blessing of giving. I think you will find that the most meaningful gifts are some of the small things that touch your heart the most.

When I was recovering from surgery and people would offer, "Can I do anything?" I'd hand them my house key and ask them to go feed my fish for me. That meant so much to me to know my fish were getting fed. That was a wonderful gift.

Although I am so much better, I leave my name on the prayer list at church for a bit longer, but I feel that I need the support of prayer. Especially as I get ready to go back to work.

These gifts of prayer, kindness, bless not just me, but they bless the giver. Be gracious enough to allow others the chance to feel the warmth of the blessing of giving.

I think too many people feel that if something is given, then they OWE the giver something in return. No one wants to feel in debt to someone else. It's not a trade, it's a GIFT. True gifts don't have strings attached. Many people (like me) only had gifts with strings attached so it wasn't a true gift. A real gift is just given with joy as a blessing on behalf of the other with no expectation of return. Accept the blessing knowing that you are allowing someone else the chance to get the blessing of being the giver. (Have a mental list of what kindness/gift you need. You may not need your fish fed, but you might need someone to pick up the dry cleaning or run to the post office for you. Have that list in your mind so when someone asks, you can give them a real task that you need help with, AND know that you give them a blessing when you allow them to do that.

Hope that makes sense. Just something to chew on mentally.