Thursday, September 14, 2006

Why Is It So Hard...

...for us to ask for help?

Earlier this week, I called a friend and made a request: Could I borrow her laptop for the day? It wasn't a desperate need, but was something I thought would be really nice to use on my retreat. I knew I would be seeing her at a meeting on Monday night, so it would be easy for me to get it. And I could drop it off at her house Tuesday afternoon so she could have it back when she needed it. She generously agreed, and when I returned the computer, she said something strange: When she had explained to her husband the favor she was granting me, he had said, "Wow, that was so nice of her to ask."

I was confused for a minute. Huh? As in, "nice of her to ask, instead of just taking it without asking?" That didn't make any sense. She elaborated: Mine was an unusual request, but one that was easy for her to meet. She and her husband were glad to be able to help someone else, but were surprised that someone actually asked them. It just doesn't happen often. They were glad I asked for their help instead of simply going without.

Last night, a woman at church was mentioning all the things she needed to get done soon and the fact that those things are impossible to do while caring for her energetic three-year-old--so she'd have to wait for a time when her husband could watch their child all day. Later I spoke with her and offered to watch her child while she got some things done.

She made a face. "I hate to always be asking you to do that." (Clarification: I have watched her child exactly three times in the twelve months that I have known her. One of those times was for about an hour, tops. And when I refused to let her pay me for that time, she turned around and bought me a small gift. Hardly "taking advantage of me.") I said in response, "I wouldn't offer if I didn't mean it. It really isn't a problem--I'd be glad to help." She hemmed and hawed and finally acted as though she might at least consider giving me a call.

These two incidents have left me wondering: Why is it so hard for us to ask other people for help? Why do we hesitate to speak up when others have something we need? Why do we second-guess people's genuine offers of assistance, apologizing and making excuses instead of smiling and accepting the help?

Any thoughts?

4 comments:

Christin said...

My father-in-law says that asking for help requires a certain amount of humility.

I think this is true, and maybe part of the key to why we don't ask for help.

Dinah Soar said...

I think the reason that people don't ask for/accept help are rooted in two things: pride and/or guilt.

Usually we aren't afraid to express how "needy" we are...but when it comes to accepting help with that need, pride rears it's head...to accept help is to admit we are insufficient to meet our own need. And refusing help "allows "us to continue in our "needy" situation. That stubborness and self-will, which in reality is pride, keeps us in a place whereby we can gain the pity of others and flaunt in God's face how pitiful we are....in actuality we are railing against God.

Guilt is often a partner to pride because much/most of the time we're really not that "needy" ...we're just complaining and whining about our lot. Rather than accept it as being from the hand of God, and that His grace is sufficient for that situation, we kick against the pricks so to speak and our whining and complaining is really a cloak for our refusal to "submit" to that situation we are in. Then when someone actually takes our complaint as a cry for help, it's like they're calling our bluff so to speak. Pride and embarrasament won't allow us to admit we really don't need help, so we hem and haw, and try to find a way to refuse the help and thereby alleviate the guilt and keep our pride in tact.

If/when we have a genuine need and dependence on others, we deceive ourselves if we refuse that help because we don't want to impose on others and think we are being humble and selfless (again pride at work).

This may sound harsh, but it is really what is going on. It takes spiritual maturity to receive grace and help in the time of real need.

I've been the complainer and the whiner...I've been the one who refused to admit my need...I've been the deceived one...when I realized how full of pride and self-will I was, I wept sorely. I've quit my whining and complaining about my lot...and when I'm in genuine need of help, I "run" to it. This didn't come easy for me. The Potter had to break this clay pot...

Annie Wright said...

I'm learning that in New Zealand people are almost offended when you buy something that they have and could have lent it to you.

Kristen said...

I tried to write this the other day and it didn't take, but I especially related to this post. Especially recently, my car took a dive. I mean It wouldn't even start. I need to get it repaired, obviously, and I have an Uncle who has an extra car. Now my Uncle and I are very close, but for some reason I found it difficult to ask him to use his car. Its not that I thought that he would say no, it was the fact that I have always hated asking for help of any kind. I guess I try to be super independent, and unfortunately that doesn't always work. Admitting needing help says to others that I am not independent, and that kills me! I would love for everyone to believe that I don't need them and that I am completely self-sufficient, but unfortunately I am not. I think we all find it hard to practice that type of humility in even our deepest hours of need. This is turning into a whole new blog instead of a comment. Sorry about that! Thanks for the thought provoking blog!