Ever notice how often we use the word “help”? Merriam Webster has about 14 definitions for it, and those are just the transitive and intransitive verbs.
Some of us are really reluctant to ask for help, even when we’re clearly in need. We see it as some kind of failing or admission of a shortcoming. Some of us don’t offer help. It’s as if not knowing what to do keeps us from extending ourselves at all, fearing falling short and disappointing everyone involved.
Asking for help or offering help can be enormously powerful, though. The emotional strength it gives and allows can enrich a relationship, heal a separation, or open us to the present moment of deep need.
It has been said that the four most persuasive words we can hear are “I need your help.” Those words are a gift. As a friend, we’re being given the opportunity to be the friend we know ourselves to be. As a colleague, we’re offered a chance to deepen an alliance or partnership. In a family structure, it becomes a way to form a tighter bond that moves us through the life we share.
Offering help is often powerful just in the offering, especially in those cases where we really don’t know what to do. Watching someone we love dealing with a serious illness or navigating a long-term personal crisis can leave a lot of us feeling powerless, but we aren’t. The words “How can I help you?” coming from a place of genuine compassion and caring can convey support, encouragement and reinforcement to the person who might be in trauma. Sometimes just hearing those words is enough, reminding us that we’re not alone, and that someone of strength is being present, standing with our suffering, making us stronger.
Asking for or offering help is a gift we give each other. Seeking out opportunities for both is a gift we give ourselves.