“Here, let me give you a hand with that.” “No thanks, I’ve got it.” I hate to think how many times the second voice in that conversation has been mine. Let you help me? No way! I’m independent, I’m strong, I’m self-reliant. I’m stupid.
Not only am I too stupid to ask for help, I even turn it down when it is offered. I tell myself that I do this because I don’t want to put anyone out; I don’t want to impose. These are lies I tell myself. It is really fear that makes me turn away every offer of help. It may be a reluctance to be in anyone’s debt, but mostly it is fear of admitting weakness or admitting failure. If I allow someone to help me, I’m telling my ego that I am not superman. My ego doesn’t like that.
There are, of course, times when asking for help has been made necessary by bad choices I have made. Those times are especially hard on the ego because the weakness and failure that they illustrate was real. Many times though, asking for, or at least accepting, help is simply the smart thing to do.
For example, some years ago I went sailing on Lake Geneva. I belonged to a sailing club and we had a number of boats there that day ranging from 14 to 24 feet long. The wind was strong and the water was a little rough, but the first half of the day I was on one of the larger boats, enjoying the ride and snapping pictures with the fairly expensive camera I had brought along. After we stopped for lunch, a woman who had been on one of the smaller boats was talking about not sailing back because of the roughness of the water. I offered to trade places with her so she could ride in the larger, more comfortable boat. She quickly accepted and then asked if I would like her to take my camera with her because it might get wet in the smaller craft. For no good reason except that I always turn down help, I said no. Well of course, halfway across the lake we capsized the little sailboat and my camera didn’t get wet, it got drowned. All I needed to have done was accept the small favor she had offered, which would have not imposed on her at all, and I might still have that camera.
Sometimes refusing to ask for or accept help can have much more serious consequences than just a destroyed camera. In my twelve step group it is vital. We begin recovery by admitting we are powerless. “Without help it is too much for us,” but by depending and leaning on each other we succeed. Equally as important as receiving help, is giving it. It is by helping others that we strengthen ourselves. It is only by helping others that we are able to save ourselves. I frequently admonish the young men I counsel to not reject help. To help them overcome their reluctance I ask them if they like to help people; I ask them how they feel when they have helped someone. Always they say that, yes, they do like helping, it feels good to help. I then ask them to not deny the privilege of helping to others. When you ask for help, you are usually doing the one you ask a favor. You are giving them an opportunity to do good, and it feels good to do good. Hopefully, you will never need for that kind of helping to be part of your lives, but the lesson that helping and being helped are both good should be.
Be self reliant, that’s a good thing. But don’t be afraid to ask for help or to accept it. Remember, "We are all in this together,” and giving and getting help is how we succeed in life.