These days, you can throw a pebble in any direction and hit a Life Coach. They come in all shapes and sizes, and flood your social media platforms with anecdotes and buzzwords meant to lure you into trading currency (energetic or physical) to learn more. With the help of inspirational quotes, good lighting and great editing, we can transform the mediocre into the magnificent. What we sometimes fail to consider is the tangible harm we do to those in need of actual help.
Like everything in life, balance is the ultimate judge of whether we are doing more harm than good. Why are you helping? Is it to help others feel good, or to help you feel good? When we lean into benevolence during the act of helping others, we miss the point of the entire exercise. When we don the cloak of the ‘healer’ only when we can be regarded in our best light, we lose sight of the intention and the action.
Help is not top to bottom. It is equal and lateral in nature, because the action is not specific to any one person or group. One day you are the helper, another you are the one in need of help. There is no amount of money, privilege, fame or power that can change this universal law. If the only constant is change, then we understand that the most powerful among us may one day need help for the most basic of functions. Appreciating this reality helps keep the notion of benevolence in balance whenever we find ourselves in the role of helper. It also helps us accept help from those we might have once deemed unworthy, due to whatever issues or hangups we’ve attached to our illusory reality.
Help is not always tangible. It may mean holding space while someone expresses themselves. It can be as small as a smile, or as big as a life-changing validation (or one and the same). Help has no measurement or tangible return, so there’s no such thing as helping someone more than another. Help is help. Regardless of the intention, help either takes or it doesn’t. Neither is of any consequence to the helper. Help is a gift; given freely for no reason other than to give. And like any gift, the receiver has the option to accept, reject, or take it for granted. Understanding this keeps offense at bay if our help is not received in the way we intended.
Why do we help? When do we help? How do we help? Knowing the answers to these questions goes a long way to knowing yourself. Even if you are capable, helping may not always be the best option. When you understand your personal boundaries, needs and capabilities – you are more informed about the way you reach out to others. If everything is a constant exercise in balance, we come to understand that just because you can help doesn’t mean you always should. When we remove conventional judgement from this reality, we come closer to understanding the true nature of helping, uplifting, and responsibly being there for each other.