5 Rules for Helping and Being Helped


By David Joel Miller.

Can you accept help? Do you help others?

Homeless and Under-housed

Homeless and Under-housed.
Photo courtesy of Flickr (waferboard)

The tug between giving and receiving help can throw you off-balance regardless of your other issues in life.

There are those who are always doing for others. They just can’t help enough. But when the time comes for them to ask for or even accept help this is something really hard for them to do. This over helping can leave you drained and resentful when others don’t show you the appreciation you expect and are not willing to do for you in return.

Other people avoid doing anything for others but are always so needy then use their friends up. Eventually, a day comes that they need help but no one is available or willing to help them. They become despondent and bitter. Constantly asking for help may be a sign you don’t have much confidence in your ability to handle things.

Getting this helping and receiving help in balance is really difficult. To navigate the helping rapids you need a lot of balance in your life.

Helping rule # 1

Helping others makes you feel good.

Have you ever done something for a small child or an elderly person? Someone who truly needed your help and couldn’t do it or do it as well without your help?

How did that make you feel? Most people have had this experience more than once in their life. The predominant feeling people say they get from helping others was that helping that person made them feel good. We mostly like the feeling of helping someone who needs help.

If you have never had this feeling, don’t cheat yourself out of the chance to feel good. Seek out some opportunity to be of service.

Helping rule # 2

Don’t help others and expect something in return.

Did you expect that child to thank you profusely or be in your debt? Did you expect them to repay the favor? Probably not, because you knew from the start that child or older person was not in a position to do the same for you.

Now, what if you lent your car to a friend and then later when you needed a ride they would not return the favor? How does this make you feel?

You probably feel badly, hurt, even angry. Why? Because when you helped them you expected that they would someday repay the favor.

If you help others expecting something in return you are setting yourself up for disappointment.

Helping rule # 3

Don’t cheat others out of the chance to feel good by helping.

If helping a child made you feel good why would you cheat someone out of any of that good feeling? This comes up frequently in recovery groups. People say that they don’t ask someone to be their sponsor because they don’t want to impose.

That other person wants the chance to help. If not you then they will help someone else. So often in life, we constantly help but are unwilling to let others help us. Being able to accept help is as much a skill as being a helping person.

Only watch out for rule 4.

Helping rule # 4

Giving is giving and selling is selling.

If someone helps you do you owe them? There are some businesses that call themselves helping professions or that like to think they help people but it is clear from the start or should be that someone is paying for this service. Most of the time helping and receiving help are not-for-profit transactions.

If someone does for you and they afterward tries to charge you, there is a good chance you will feel cheated. That gift had strings attached. Makes you reluctant to accept help from that person again and it makes you reluctant to offer them any help in the future.

Make sure what the intent is upfront and feel free to decline offers of help that come with strings attached.

Helping rule # 5

Helping should not be a destination at the end of a one-way street.

People who can give help but are never able to receive it are in an unhealthy neighborhood. If something inside you makes you feel that you need to always be helping others but that you should not accept any help in return you need to look at yourself and see why it is so hard for you to accept help.

Do you feel that you don’t deserve to receive help? Are you not worth it? Then take a look back at all those previous posts about how you deserve a happy life and need to start creating one. Believe in yourself.

If you find that you are mostly on the receiving end then consider what you can do to give to others. Giving makes you feel better about yourself and always taking makes you weaker, more helpless and selfish.

This is not to say that if you have a genuine disability it is wrong to accept a lot of help. What I am saying is that you need also to look at what you can do to be helpful in return. Sometimes that is as simple as saying thank you or a call to see how the person who was helpful to you is feeling today. This is one of those for sure cases of; it is not the size of the gift but the thought that counts. Just, please, be honest with yourself about how much help you need and what you can and can’t do for others.

Helping is not a fair trade situation. You do not do for them so they will do for you. It is a “you have to give it away to keep it” thing. The more you can do for others the better a person you become. Letting others help you sometimes helps them to find happiness.

Best wishes on your journey to a happier life.

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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings, and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

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