Practice Discernment When Helping Others

“People who won’t help others in trouble “because they got into trouble through their own fault” would probably not throw a lifeline to a drowning person until they learned whether that person fell in through his or her own fault or not.” ~ Sydney J. Harris … 

Numerous times throughout my life I have gotten myself into trouble, through my own faults and mistakes, and believe me, some help would have been appreciated during those times. However, I also am aware that it is important to learn how to deal with adversity on our own, without having someone rescue us out whenever we get into trouble. Therein lies the dilemma–how do we decide when our help is necessary or when it is damaging? Are we going to let someone else make a mess of their life, and lose their faith in people, or are we going to become enablers by pulling them out of their own mess?

What Sydney says about our attitude towards others’ troubles is a very important idea. At the same time, however, I feel he tries to simplify a complex situation. I do not believe that the answer is easy for us to find–for there is no simple answer. Sometimes allowing others to work through their problem can be one of the best learning experiences possible on their journey to self-realization. Stepping in and pulling them from their mess could just hamper their growth in the end.

The key, it seems, is discernment. If we can accurately judge the situation, then we can take appropriate action. If our own children have been careless and have broken something, it is important that we not make amends for them–taking care of the situation on their own will help them to grow up to be responsible people. If someone runs out of gas on the side of the road, what is the harm in helping them get additional fuel? They probably will learn their lesson whether they get help or not. However, if a life or someone’s health is at risk, then we must always step in, unless it would put our own lives or the lives of even more people at risk.

The truth is we all need help throughout our lives. I find it hard to imagine where I would be if I had received help in certain situations, or had not in others. There is so much that I needed to learn in life through overcoming my own troubles, and there is so much that could have crushed me under its weight had I not had the help of others to bear it with me.

Practice discernment when helping others today.

Questions to consider:

How often when we help are we just making people more dependent on others?

What kind of situations might we not want help to get out of?

What kinds of signs can we look for to figure out if helping someone else is truly the best thing that we can do?

For further thought:

“Helping those who have been struck by unforeseeable misfortunes is fundamentally different from making dependency a way of life.” ~ Thomas Sowell


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Filed under Commentary, Food For Thought, Living, Opinion

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