When not helping is an act of kindness

November 2021

This is a viewpoint that I find many people may have strong views against, but it's very important to me that sometimes it's better NOT to help, and here are five reasons why:

1) Self-care is the priority

Chances are if you like to help others, then you're a giver - and you may even be to the extreme. You may even find that you attract people with problems and that you're always being sought out for comfort and advice, and this is likely to be at your own detriment. Helping others is a kind thing to do and I'm always so touched when I see people helping others, especially when that kindness is extended to strangers or causes that aren't directly related to themselves. However, it's also important (if not more) to make sure you take proper care of yourself. If you're constantly giving, then you will get drained of your energy and likely even absorb the negative energy of others. Although you can learn how to minimise this transfer to an extent,  you must take action to replenish your own source of energy. So at the end of the day, being selfish is actually a selfless act - because if you help yourself, you will have much more to give to others.

2) Short-term vs. long-term gains

This is what I like to refer to as the 'band-aid' approach where a problem is fixed for the short run, but is possibly worse in the long run. A good example I can use here is of bringing up children. When a parent tries to help their child by protecting them against 'bad situations', this is good as the child will be kept happy and not have to deal with things like bad behaviour or adverse situations. However, if the parent is constantly removing these obstacles away from the child, and even preventing them from experiencing 'real life', how will the child cope when their mum or dad isn't around to help? Will they have the tools needed to deal with the situations effectively later in life? Will they have the resilience to bounce back from dealings that may knock their confidence if they've never experienced them? Now, I'm not suggesting you put your children in danger or stand back as they are being pushed and shoved by others. But it is important to help them to understand that these situations can arise, and how to deal with, and learn from, adversity.

Another example may be someone who has lost their job and needs some help. In one scenario, you can give them a place to stay, help to buy them groceries and do what you can to provide them with shelter and comfort. However, on the other extreme, a person who needs to figure things out for themselves may actually be forced to be creative and even end up finding a better way to source an income, as well as become more financially and emotionally independent. 

If you are never given the chance to fall, how would you ever know you are able to fly?

3) Different perspectives offer different solutions

Everyone is unique and has a different perspective in life - this is formed by personality, character traits, experiences and the value systems that the person holds. So when someone has a problem, YOUR solution may not necessarily be the RIGHT solution for them. This is difficult when you've also been through a similar situation, and you've found a way forward that has helped you to get through the tough times. But it's so important to know that this doesn't mean that everyone will benefit from the same course of action. In this case, helping another person may be more of providing them with the information of what helped you (if they are asking), or perhaps they're just asking for someone to listen rather than wanting someone to tell them what to do next. 

4) Missing a life lesson

There are many life lessons out there and everyone has their own distinct lessons to learn in their lifetime. For example, one of my life lessons was to do with self-esteem and knowing my self-worth. It took me a while to figure out that what I thought and what I said mattered, and that finding my voice and having the courage to speak up would lead me to many more opportunities. However, if someone was always there to help me and speak on my behalf, it would take me much longer to learn my lesson. Similarly, going back to the example with the child, if the parents always handled unfavourable situations on behalf of their son/daughter, then this would effectively be depriving the child of having their own experiences to deal with. So rather than helping by 'doing' things on another's behalf, it's far more important to help by not doing and allowing them to figure things out for themselves.

5) It's not your job to save everyone

Extreme givers may have kind and generous hearts but when this has gone too far to the extreme, it can look as though they are taking over a responsibility that doesn't belong to them. Please keep in mind that I'm talking about extremes here - helping is good and there needs to be more kindness and generosity in this world. It's when it goes too far to the extreme, this is when things can go wrong - for both the helper and the one being helped. Freedom of choice is an important concept that can't be ignored, and when someone needs help, ultimately they need to be the person who makes the decisions and walks the path to recovery. Help can be sought and guidance obtained, but no one but YOU can fix your problems, and when someone thinks they can fix your problems (or even fix you), then I would question whether this would be beneficial to you.

In actual fact, what I'm trying to say is not actually about not helping others. It's about choosing how and when to help, and understanding your boundaries. Don't mistake the quick and obvious answer as the best way to help. What's more important is to be able to arm someone with the tools, skills and knowledge of how they can help themselves. Avoiding problems and experiences will only help you in the short run - it's important to know that these perceived negative situations are actually there for a reason - so you need to see these as opportunities for learning and growth.

So the next time someone is struggling and appears to need some help, take a step back and think about the possible consequences of your actions (including to yourself), and whether or not your helping hand will benefit and allow for their development, growth and overall wellbeing to be at the forefront of your actions.