it's not selfish to ask for help (archived post)

by benjamin hollon on may 10, 2020

One of the great misfortunes of life is that we often need help. We’re only human; no one can instinctively know how to brave all the trials and setbacks life throws at us.

Often, when we can’t hold our heads above water, we’re offered help, like a life preserver to a sinking child. Sadly, humans, in addition to needing help, often are too proud to accept it. We refuse that which we need so as “not to inconvenience” the one who offered it, not wanting to give in to our “selfish” wants.

One of the best explanations of this problem comes from C. S. Lewis, author of the famous Chronicles of Narnia:

“If I am drowning in a rapid river, a man who still has one foot on the bank may give me a hand which saves my life. Ought I to shout back (between my gasps) ‘No, it’s not fair! You have an advantage! You’re keeping one foot on the bank’? That advantage—call it ‘unfair’ if you like—is the only reason why he can be of any use to me. To what will you look for help if you will not look to that which is stronger than yourself?” - C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

While addressing a slightly different situation than us, this passage still offers insight into our problem. If we need help and that help is offered to us, should we then refuse that help for fear of causing inconvenience?

In fact, if we refuse help because of this, isn’t that the truest form of selfishness there is? We are essentially saying, “You say you want to help, but I know better. I don’t trust you to decide for yourself what is or isn’t convenient.” Our selfish pride turns us from one extreme – taking advantage of the generosity of others – to the other – assuming the generosity doesn’t exist.

Besides insulting the judgment of your friends, refusing help can cause them very real emotional pain. When you’re sinking, the thing a true friend wants most is to save you. Imagine for a moment your best friend drowning in the ocean; how would you feel if that same friend refused to let you rescue them? I can only try to comprehend the sense of betrayal, the feeling of helplessness to help the one you most want to. I’d hate to have to stand by and watch as one of my friends is having trouble.

One mistake people make is in thinking that needing help is a sign of weakness. It’s not. Everyone needs help; we all mistakes, and we all don’t know what to do at times. This doesn’t make us weak, it just means that it’s time to learn from someone who has already gone through what you have.

Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness. Rather, it’s a sign of strength: the strength to gather enough courage to present your problem to someone else. It’s easy to hide in a corner; it’s challenging to admit that you’re not perfect in front of someone you respect. Bravery isn’t the ability to hide weakness, it’s the willpower to confront your weakness and overcome it. Neither does bravery require you to carry your burdens alone. Many a hero has earned his or her success with the help of a trusted friend.

I don’t know what you’re going through. You may have huge problems or insignificant troubles. Either way, you don’t need to carry them alone. There’s no shame in asking for help. It’s not hard to do and will save you loads of trouble in the end.

If you have trouble admitting that you are in need, I know how you feel. I, like many people, am proud and don’t like to admit that I don’t understand or don’t know what to do. It’s not uncommon for me to go a long way to cover up my incompetence. Afterward, I always realize how much simpler it would have been if I could have swallowed my pride and asked for an explanation without offering an excuse.

Of course, this whole thing about asking for help goes both ways. You need to be willing to offer it to those in need. Asking for help but refusing to give it yourself is hypocritical. You’d be like the Unmerciful Servant in Matthew 18 who, pardoned a debt of ten thousand bags of gold, immediately goes and demands payment of a debt of one hundred silver coins.

When asked for help, set an example for others, and give it. It’s a small price to pay for the gratitude you receive. Besides, when you have a reputation of helping, more people will be willing to help you. It’s a win-win situation where both sides gain, and no-one loses. Your compassion toward others will inspire people to hide their fear of seeking help and will give you the satisfaction of knowing you’ve done the right thing.

Whether you need help or want to offer it, don’t delay! There people all around who are willing to lend you a helping hand, and all of them need help in return.

Liked what you read?

I'm really glad you did! What's next?