“Don’t point a finger — hold out a helping hand” (Anonymous).
AS A CHARACTER TRAIT OR VIRTUE, HELPFULNESS IS ONE OF THE GREATEST. It is easy to aspire to but hard to acquire. We may, without much effort, learn how to be helpful in certain lesser ways, but becoming skillful at helping takes a lifetime of experience. So here are three suggestions for growth in our helpfulness.
Helping with humility. There is no worse helper than the person who thinks he never needs any help with his own life. So to become effective helpers, we need to humble ourselves and realize our own neediness. The right to help others has to be earned, and one of the principal ways we earn it is by being willing to receive help.
Helping without humiliating. Some people will never let you pick up the check in a restaurant. They insist on being the giver every time, and one begins to suspect that some kind of power game is being played, in which you are expected always to play the subservient role. These people “help” with a help that is overwhelming and overpowering; it is not helpful so much as it is humiliating in its “generosity.”
Helping with hopefulness. It is a tough world that we live in, and at times it is hard not to become cynical about whether it does any good to help others. Sometimes we give help with an attitude that says, “I know this help is going to be wasted on you, but I’m going to help you anyway,” and the one being helped senses that we don’t have any confidence in them. But we must discipline ourselves to rise above cynicism. Whether we can see the results or not, it always does good to do good, and love requires that we believe the best in people and interpret the facts in the best way that we possibly can.
As we’ve said, helpfulness is a trait that has to be learned; we get better at it as we go along. So we need to seize every opportunity to work on our helpfulness, and the fact is, we get many such opportunities every day. Unfortunately, we let many of these go by because we’re waiting for some “big” opportunity to help someone. But the person who is not helpful in the little things is not going to be helpful in the big ones either. So let’s work on our helpfulness every chance we get.
“Great opportunities to help others seldom come, but small ones surround us every day” (Sally Koch).