The risk of asking for help

“We cannot give help when we cannot ask for help. … When you judge yourself for asking for help, you are, by default, always judging when you offer help. ” Dr. Brene’ Brown. Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit, 2013.

teamI’ve been wrestling with this statement for more than a month.  I don’t want it to be true. I love to help. I don’t love to ask for help. I feel guilty asking for help, that I am unworthily taking someone’s time. I feel inadequate asking for help, as if I should be able to figure it out myself.

But I don’t want to be guilty of judging people  who are asking for help.  I tell people all the time, “just ask us for help.” When I taught speech, I told my students, “Come and ask me for help.” I’m  happy to help.

You are too.

But as Brene’ points out, when I am self-critical about asking for help, it means that I feel more adequate, more worthy, more important when I am asked for help. Which is a form of judging. Or, perhaps, that by helping I’m serving a form of penance.

What’s the cost of not being able to ask for help? I want to be careful here, but I think we will have trouble accepting help from God. The good news of the Kingdom is that we need help approaching God and that God is that help.

I wonder if we would be better off if we tried this:

  • Rather than feeling guilty for asking for help, I’m guilty so I ask for help.
  • Rather than feeling ashamed for asking, I’m ashamed so I ask for help to see myself as God does.
  • Rather than feeling inadequate, I acknowledge I’m inadequate for the task by myself so I ask for help.

So, what are you thinking? Help me understand.

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About Jon Swanson

Social media chaplain. Author of "Lent For Non-Lent People" and "A Great Work: A Conversation With Nehemiah For People (Who Want To Be) Doing Great Works." Writer of 300wordsaday.com. I help people understand. Understand some of the Bible. Understand what Lent can be about. Understand what it means to follow.

4 thoughts on “The risk of asking for help

  1. I think pulling an all nighter was a mistake, however, in this case, I’m guessing God wanted me to read your post, as I do feel guilty. I haven’t gotten over the begging aspect of fundraising for my ministry. I thank you again for all the help you’ve given, and I’ll probably ask for more in the months/years to come.

    Thanks again for the daily reminder to keep my focus on God.

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  2. I think there is a cultural issue too we place high value in being independent. I know I do. Asking for help is humbling it’s an acknowledgement I can’t do it all. I like your bullet points because they serve as a form of confession. I say I want to depend on God but what I really mean is on my terms. Thanks for this.

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  3. In my experience, it is hardest to ask for help when you need it the most. The pain of rejection is more intense when we are most vulnerable. Is that because we know that we wouldn’t be willing to help in similar circumstances?

    Perhaps! But I know people that will help even when they have little means. Lending a hand means that many hands will be reaching in your direction. Givers know that they may someday risk rejection when they are in need. Meanwhile, those with means pass by on the other side, displaying worldly wisdom in their choices. That only serves to make the people willing to give feel like fools.

    Most people overlook the end of the Good Samaritan story—the part where the Samaritan pledges to continue to pay for the victim’s care long after he leaves the injured man in the care of an innkeeper.

    Helping is a commitment in a commitment-challenged age.

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