Helping others is good. Studies show that helping others not only benefits the person you are aiding, but also increases your own happiness. It gives you purpose, the feeling of being useful and makes you feel needed as well as accomplished. Communities such as churches, schools or neighbourhoods encourage helping others as a way to sustain the welfare of the greater good. Heck- it’s the whole purpose of a non-profit organization, a million if not billion dollar industry just built on the fact that humans should help each other. Yet even if helping others has such great consequences – sometimes we find ourselves feeling drained and used. Sometimes helping people even with the best intentions ends up hurting them, or even worse, sometimes it even enables bad behaviors on their end. How do we know when to reach out and offer help, and when should we even if asked to help say no? Here are some pointers:
1) Will it actually help the person?
Some people ask for feedback or your point of view, then just ignore it or discredit it. At times, people don’t want to hear what you have to say but just want to their thoughts reestablished. You won’t be appreciated or acknowledged leaving you feeling drained and empty. It might actually even backfire and the person is angry at you for not agreeing with them. If people are not ready to be helped, you cannot help them.
2) Can this person be helped?
In some situations there is nothing you can do, and people will look to you to do something. Sometimes the only help we can give is compassion and a kind ear. It is not your job to fix problems of others, but if its feasible and doable for you – you can assist people in making their lives better.
3) How will helping this person make me feel?
Even if you can help someone, ask yourself what this will do to you. Will it make you feel used? Will it make you feel like you wasted your time? Will it overwhelm you? As long as you feel good after you have helped someone it is fine. If you perceive this will hinder you in your happiness, it is a duty of yours to say no. You are not doing anyone a favor if you resent them for helping them – least of all yourself.
4) How much am I willing to give?
Remember to set boundaries. Some people ask for a finger and take your whole hand. Remember you are the one giving so you set the terms. I remember listening to a podcast and Oprah saying how she dealt with her family constantly wanting money from her. She sat them down one day and said each could list one thing. Only one thing they would get from her. And she would then see if it fits with her morals. If she agreed, she would give them this one thing and nothing more. That way she set a boundary. Some relatives wanted a house, others a college education. There is a limit to everything. Even for one of the most richest people on earth. It also helps people know where they stand. Help them learn how to be helped.
Remember – each time someone needs your help is different and what you give to some you might not want to give to others. That is fine. And at certain times you can give more and other times give less. Always check in with yourself and be mindful of how much you can give.