How often have you turned away what people offer you, whether it’s a compliment, picking up the check at lunch or even an apology? How many times have you wanted life to give to you but found yourself saying, “Oh, don’t worry about me . . . I’m fine.” It’s the equivalent of the old martyr joke: “That’s all right. I’ll just sit here in the dark.”
I’m currently working on a new book, Born to Receive, and this month I have been working on a chapter about asking for help.
So, of course, I am noticing not only my own reluctance to ask for help but also I am really aware of how many people who need help won’t ask for it and even turn it away when it’s offered.
I think these are some of the beliefs that drive this refusal:
• Wanting something for yourself is unseemly at best and greedy and selfish at worst.
• You shouldn’t burden others with your troubles.
• People who achieve success without help are admirable.
• Those who achieve success while enduring significant hardship are even more admirable.
However, when you are the one who wants to give, it’s easy to see how silly it is for someone to refuse what you offer. It’s frustrating! Interestingly, a person who rebuffs your help is often the same individual who frequently complains, “I feel taken for granted and unappreciated; no one takes my needs into account.”
The following story illustrates this paradox.
A man and his family are trapped in their house with rising floodwaters closing in fast.
“Please help us,” the man prays to God.
After a while, someone comes by in a rowboat and says, “Climb in!”
“That’s all right,” the man replies, “Go help someone else. I’m praying to God who will save us.” He continues to pray. The waters rise and the family is forced to crawl up on top of the roof. The man continues to pray.
A helicopter flies overhead and rope is dropped.
“That’s OK. Go help someone else. I am praying to God, who will save us.” The helicopter moves on and the man continues to pray . . . all the way up to the time that the waters rise and the family is drowned.
Shocked, the man later complains to God, “I have served you faithfully. Why didn’t you answer my prayers?”
“I did,” God replies. “I sent you a boat and a helicopter.”
Do you ask for help when you could use it? Do you refuse offers of help?
I have a motto: Give generously and receive graciously. If you like giving to others, give them the same pleasure. It feels good to help out. Feel good about receiving it too.