Yes, you read me correctly, I believe you should stop trying to help people.
In this time where we look for more help, and we try to give more to those in needs, it’s important to get clear on what we do to help, and especially why we “help”, and how to do it the right way.
Because whether they’re friends, family, colleagues, or whoever it is you’re trying to help, you “helping” them might actually be doing more harm than good.
Why we help people
We help people because we think we know better, we think we can do it better than them, and ultimately, we help because we believe they need our help.
But it’s only one side of the story, the other is that helping makes us feel better. We might feel needed, we might feel we make a difference in the world, and that makes us feel good.
But if doing an action to help actually make us feel better, then maybe, just maybe, we might be helping more for ourselves than for those we “help”.
Why we should help
Helping is good, it makes us feel better, it makes great adventures possible, it creates a sense of belonging and community.
And if someone asks for and needs your help and you feel like giving it, then definitely help. Help without expectation of reciprocity, help because you want to.
And you’ll both be better for it.
Why we shouldn’t help
Sometimes you will want to do something in place of someone else, because they don’t know how to do it, or because you know how to do it better. And they may even ask you to help.
But doing it in their place will result in two things: stagnation and resentment.
Stagnation because you’re robbing the person the opportunity to learn and get better, and in the meantime you’re not working on something that would challenge you, so you’re not learning either.
Resentment because you might feel like you shouldn’t have to do that, and why can’t they do it properly. And from the other side, at one point they will resent the fact that you wouldn’t push them to learn how to do it themselves.
Learning and learning experiences are a huge part of this life on earth, and while we can be taught skills and facts, true learning comes from inside, doing something and experiencing life.
If helping someone means robbing them of the experience of learning, then that’s not helping.
A fine line
Don’t get away from this article thinking that you shouldn’t help homeless people on the streets because otherwise they won’t learn. Basic needs have to be fulfilled, and when someone can’t fulfill them (whether it’s because of physical or emotional trauma), then it’s important to step up and help.
But helping people survive and helping people grow are different things. Sometimes helping means challenging someone. But it’s not enough to say “why don’t you get a job?” or “I challenge you to make a million dollars” to someone living on the streets (or on unemployment for a long time). If they see no possible way to achieve that, then it’s not helping at all, on the contrary, it will increase the feelings of helplessness.
In order to truly help someone, show them a challenge that’s just outside their comfort zone and help them see that they can actually accomplish it.
Next time you want to help someone, make sure you’re helping the right way, and for the right reasons.