Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Help and its implications

More often than not when helping someone we do set expectations and then end up feeling betrayed and disappointed as the end result did not work as anticipated by us. But in spite of the disillusionment we keep aiding with the hope that one day that person will turn into the one we have pictured. Unconsciously we take ownership of his/her situation with the conviction that we know better, leaving him/her with very little room to take responsibility and make his/her own choices. Therefore we end up engaging in a codependent relationship, a mixture of hate and love, gratitude and ungratefulness, expectations and disappointments, breakups and starting over, forgiveness and resentment. Both parties are unhappy: the one asking for help feels suffocated by the conditional aid while the one helping feels used and unappreciated.
As time passes by the one being helped starts to demand for the aid, considering it his/her right to be helped, given that we have been always there to rescue him/her from the fire. But then, the sense of obligation and umbrage has already taken its toll on the helping hand, resulting on a strong unwillingness to keep supporting the unthankful one. It is then when people start to question the implications of helping others.

Helping does not necessary entails taking responsibility for others problems and solving them on their behalf, as we are then taking away their chance to experience and to grow from the situation they are facing. Helping is about being there to assist when needed to, but with no conditions and or expectations. It is not about wanting to control the person we are assisting by gaining power over him/her and therefore crossing the line by starting to organize his/her life as per our will. Doing so does takes away his/her freedom to be “Who she/he wants to be” imposing on her/his the burden of becoming “who we want him/her to be”. The end result: a very unhealthy relationship where dissatisfaction is what prevails in all the parties involved.

When the time to stop “lending a hand” arrives we are usually overwhelmed by a feeling of guilt and remorse, since this goes against what is believed to be the right thing to do. The sense of obligation is such that it takes a huge effort to say NO so as to let the other person take responsibility of her/his doings. Despite these contradictory feelings, we do need to face the reality and accept the fact that sometimes the best way to help is by not helping.
Helping someone by not helping does not imply ignoring the other person’s problem and letting him/her break into pieces while we go on with our own business. But sometimes we do need to accept that the best help we can offer to a specific person or situation is by letting things follow their course of action. We do need to admit that sometimes the person asking for help does need to hit the ground so as to be able to stand on their own, as this is what she/he really needs to experienced so as to be able to take control of his/her life.

We shall keep helping each other as much as we can, but we need to do so while remembering that they are not us and we are not them. We also need to keep in mind that people do need to take responsibilities for their actions, and that there are not victims or victimizers. Not helping as expected does not make as victimizers, and not getting what we want does not make us victims.

© 2009 Gabriela Abalo – Author
Welcome to share with friends, email this post and leave a comment.

This week's Theme Thursday is "help" - I'm contributing with this old post (old but still very much current ;) )


Paulina Reibakas said...


Anonymous said...

Hi Gabi

It is a very good posting. I agree totally with the sentiment. It is, however, very hard to implement especially when it comes to helping your own children.

Have a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.


Sherry Bakhtian said...

This goes back to our favorite topic, "expectations". Help because you want to and you enjoy helping, not because you expect something for it or of it. Easier said than done, especially when it has to do with the ones closest to us.

Great article, thanks Gabi!


Gabriela Abalo said...

@ Pauli, muchas gracias. tqm

@Jamilah, so true dear friend when it comes to our family it is so difficult to implement it. But precisely our family is the one that most need it.

@Sherry, expectations goes with Ego... therefore usually mess us up :(
When it comes to family it is very hard to implement, but we must do the effort if we want them to be able to move on.

LoveNlight to all

Anonymous said...

Really true. Sometimes it´s difficult to identify when we are in one of these roles (helped or helper). I will from now on put more effort to identify this cases on myself.
Thanks Gaby!!!

Kass said...

It is so difficult to know how to truly help someone. I think the people who have helped me the most are the ones that offer an inspiring example. So many forms of help can be seen as interfering - it's difficult to know how to support those we love.
Interesting post.

Anonymous said...


This is something that is real life with me. The moment there is a lapse in the aid, then just know that the relationship will sour. Sometimes I wonder whether the people we give aid to realise that there will be a time when we shall be no more and they will be no more, what shall they leave behind to show that they existed?


Gabriela Abalo said...

Dear Kass and Anonymous friend,
I believe we are both (helper and helped), as when we are helping we are also being helped - since we are experiencing and learning from the situation being dealt by the one we are helping. When we are the ones being helped we are then also helping, since we are teaching by sample how to deal or not with a specific situation. Life is all about balance, giving a receiving, the secret lies on accepting that things do not always work as expected and that sometimes the only way to help is by not helping as expected.
From supporting the ones we love we learnt the most since our tendency to feel sorry for them is what challenge our actions. We do need to accept the fact that sometimes by helping we are actually not helping them, and that feeling sorry for them does not help them at all.

But we should also be aware that this is a lonely path as many will turn away from us.

Love your comments and contributions.



Gabriela Abalo said...

So true dear Cleo, the minute that we stop helping as expected people walk away from us with resentment, feeling left down by us. But, be sure that sooner or later they will appreciate our course of action.
Not helping as expected is a very difficult thing to do, especially when we are dealing with family, our heart is broken and we feel offended and unappreciated, but we must remember that we are doing it for their good and that we are not punishing them, therefore their reaction should not be taken as an offence.
But, be careful, as the decision to help differently shall not be driven by our anger and bitterness towards the ones letting us down.. remember that helping is not about setting expectations as if we do so, then we are conditioning the help and taking away their rights “to be who they want to be”



Anonymous said...


I read this over and over when I picked it from the JUNK where your e-mails. I tried to do a simple mapping to myself and I concluded that you actual wrote about me. It was I you were telling that it is high time I learn to say NO and allow people especially relatives to FIGURE out their DESTINY.

I have been a bit naughty for last many Wednesdays but obviously NOT out of choice but PRESSURES. You need to tell me how to contain such pressures.



Gabriela Abalo said...

Hi my dear friend,

I'm so happy to hear from you. It's great to have you back by the blog and have your comments. I'm glad to know the post resonated with you and it gave you the chance to evaluate the kind of help your are giving to your relatives.

I will write something about managing "pressures"

Have a wonderful Xmas and a very prosperous 2010.


Bunda said...

Thank you.... this was something i needed to hear right at this moment.
I will be printing it for future reference.

Gabriela Abalo said...

Dear Bunda,
I'm glad to know it has come at the right time for you.


Brian Miller said...

great post gabi...its hard sometimes to discern the line between helping and heart pulls me toward the illusion i am helping but...

happy tt!

RA said...

Wise words, Gabriela. Very wise, indeed! :)

Betsy said...

My sister and I are always talking about co-dependency! Nice take on the theme!

Francisca said...

Good food for thought here. Both the helper and the helped can avoid frustration by being clear on what help exactly is needed for what outcome. A big dose of detached compassion doesn't hurt either.

Anonymous said...

A tricky and multifaceted issue. To even try and figure it out is valiant. I applaud your effort.

Baino said...

Helping is about being there to assist when needed to, but with no conditions and or expectations. Never a truer word was spoken. Feed a man fish and you feed him for a day, teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. I think it's more in the type of help we profer others rather than help for help's sake which does engender dependency. Great post.

Systematic Weasel said...

A wonderful post!


Carrie Burtt said...

Oh Gabriela this is such a wonderful post! (I think you must have video taped my first marraige)!
Your words are so true, having been classified by therapists as a "classic enabler", and "codependant", I have lived these words...:-(
Your insights and understanding are wonderful. Thank you for sharing! :-)