My life is largely about helping people. I help people in the spiritual journey as they struggle with big questions about God. I try to help people mend broken relationships. I try to energize our church to help the poor, to feed the hungry. I try to help out at home as much as I can. I help my friends whenever I can, building decks, fences, cooking food, whatever.
And of course, there are times when it’s exhausting. There are times that I want to go crawl in a hole and hide from the world – that’s what Sunday afternoon Sabbath is for, that’s what vacation is all about. But that’s only a small fraction of the time. Most of the time, I’m happy to help. I’m grateful that my “job” is such that I can be available to people.
And, I’m happy when people ask for help. I want people to ask. And of course, I have to say “no” sometimes. And I really feel deeply conflicted when I do, but I never begrudge people for asking. It’s very seldom that I feel put out.
But here’s the thing: I hate asking people for help. I really, really hate it.
In fact, writing this blog post is an exercise in delaying the writing of an email that I need to write where I need to ask a lot of people for help. And it’s not something for church – I’m totally comfortable asking people to help with volunteering for the church. This is something personal. And I hate asking for help.
If I’m honest, some of this is a spiritual issue. I don’t like feeling indebted. I’m a proud, proud man, and I’m much more comfortable when I feel like “I don’t owe anyone.” Of course, this is so ridiculous. Maybe some people are keeping score, but I know that I’m not. I don’t keep a record of who I’ve helped and who “owes me.” I just don’t think that way about other people. But I’m hyper-aware of who I “owe.”
And, I know people have busy lives. And it’s hard for me to ask people to sacrifice what’s going on in their lives to help me. This is going to sound so lame, but I don’t feel worthy of other people’s help.
And, I like to keep the “Charlie is SuperMan and can accomplish anything” myth alive and well – even if it’s only in my own head. I could probably write about this one all day long, but just naming this one out loud is vulnerable enough for today!
Over the last two years I’ve been trying to cultivate a habit of asking for help. Occasionally, I get in a “funk.” I get a little depressed, a little melancholy, a little insecure and I second-guess myself a lot. It’s never gotten so bad that I’ve sought out medication, but who knows, maybe someday I’ll pursue that route. I used to just suffer through it on my own, hoping against hope that someone would spontaneously ask me how I’m doing. And when no one noticed, I’d resent everyone in my life who didn’t ask. (real mature, I know). But a couple years ago I tried to start asking for help. Now, there are two friends of mine who, probably once or twice a year, get an email from me that says something like, “I’m struggling, it’s been a tough week/month, I’d value your prayers.”
It’s hard for me, this asking for help. And I usually delay this request for days on end. But every time, my friends offer a gracious, kind response. And, I don’t know this, but I suspect that they’re grateful that I trust them enough to ask for help.
In the next 8 months, I’m going to have to ask for a lot of help. And I don’t like it. But perhaps its good. Perhaps it will cultivate humility where I lack. Sigh.
Now, I have an email that I need to write…