Leading a Horse to Water

Today I want to talk about what I know about helping others.

For those of you who know me, you probably know that one of my biggest passions in life is helping people. I love helping people. Giving an encouraging word, believing in somebody, teaching them something new and relevant, just listening (huge!), these are all things that bring me a personal joy that is indescribable. It’s making a difference for someone even just for a moment, turning a frown upside down. It has a lot of worth, a lot of value to me.

I think part of it is the feeling I get when I see “where a person was” versus “where they are now”. It’s the “making a difference” that really energizes me and gets me pumped up! I feel called to make a difference each and every day. When I wake up in the morning and have that purpose, I feel so good. I can’t wait to face the day and see what it will bring.

I’ll be honest, though. There are spans of days, weeks, maybe even months where I let myself become selfish, self-absorbed, self—whatever for whatever reason and things can go downhill quickly. I sometimes feel like maybe I have nothing to offer OR I have such little energy at the time that I only have enough to help myself. Either way, that doesn’t make me very happy. Truth is, sometimes I have something to offer, sometimes I don’t. It doesn’t change how I feel about people and it shouldn’t change how they feel about me.

People know (at least I hope they do) that they can rely on me if they need something and if I can help them, I will. I’ve had to learn over the years that it’s also ok if I can’t help them, for whatever reason, too. Maybe I don’t have an extra $20 or maybe I have previous commitments, maybe I don’t have the expertise or wisdom they need to deal with their situation. That’s ok. I still want the best for them and I hope they can find help.

So that’s my side of it but…

There’s an old saying, “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.”

“What’s the deal, man? I got what you need right here. Why won’t you take it?”

It used to baffle me sometimes when someone refused help but I think I have come to the conclusion as to why people refuse help. There are a few reasons it could be.

1. Pride – “I don’t need your help. I got it. If I let you help me, that means I don’t have what it takes to help myself. There must be something wrong with me if I need your help and what’s worse is you see me as less of a person if I can’t do it myself.” Sound familiar at all? I think we’re all guilty of this from time to time. One thing we forget to realize is we steal the joy of others when we refuse help. Maybe helping you also helps them. They say that if you want to become an expert at something, teach it. If you can teach someone something, it also helps you get better at it yourself.

2. Hopelessness – “What’s the point? I don’t want you to waste your time on me. Nothing will ever change. I’ve already tried…so many times. Why should your attempt be any different? Don’t even bother. If I let you try, I will just be disappointed again.” This is a hard one. If someone doesn’t have hope that things will get better, it is really hard to convince them otherwise or motivate them to do different. I heard this yesterday. When Thomas Edison was inventing the light bulb he said, “I have not failed 10,000 times, I just know now 10,000 ways that won’t work.” If you have tried something and it doesn’t work, see that as a positive because you’re crossing that possibility off the list. When you cross it off the list, you are that much closer to the answer. It’s like when you are taking a multiple choice test and you know it’s not “A”. Cross it off, now you have one less answer to choose from. Great! I know I make it sound easy and it’s not that easy. Finding hope is hard. It really is but I challenge you to keep going and hold on to hope when you feel hopeless.

3. Discomfort/fear – “That would be awkward if I let you help me. I don’t know you well enough to let you in. I let _________ in and he/she hurt me. I don’t let people in anymore.” You have to build trust in order to help some people. Not everyone is so easily trusting. They have to know you really truly care and that you’re not going to take advantage of them. It can be scary to open up to someone and be vulnerable. If they know your secret, they can use it against you. People gossip. It happens. It sucks. When you build trust with someone, they are way more willing to accept help from you, advice from you, whatever it is. It doesn’t take a lot. Listening is huge, like I said earlier. If you repeat back to them what they just told you, it shows them you took the time to listen and you want to get to know them.

I think we’re hardwired to help others and need help. A training in Dallas I attended three years ago taught me many things about relationships and emotions. One of the things they would say is that “we are in the tribe of needing people, not needy people.” There’s a difference between really, truly needing help and asking for a hand out and being needy, but that’s a whole ‘nother topic! We need people. No man is an island. We all need family, friends, and others around us. All too often, especially here in the U.S., we try and try to be 100% self-sufficient and it simply does not work.

Until next time…thanks for reading! I’ll leave you with a couple questions to think about.

Are there other reasons I missed that you or someone you know refuses help?

Do you like helping people for the same reasons I do? Why or why not?