Thursday Thought – Help…?

I’m sure you have all heard the adage “God helps those who help themselves.” This phrase finds its “origins” all over the globe – from numerous usages by the ancient Greeks to being stated in the Quran and, of course, “our” Western “knowledge” of it from Christian “Holy” scripture. Its history and usage are so prolific and extensive that it really could be considered something of a “universal” axiom. Even its meaning has become cliche – we KNOW when we hear or use this saying that it essentially means we have to TAKE ACTION for ourselves in order to receive further assistance from others (or “God”). This DOES NOT necessarily imply that God does not help those who CANNOT help themselves – that is not what is stated in this proverb; i.e., we do not say “God helps those who CAN help themselves” – that would take on an entirely different meaning and THAT is something we all should remember and reflect on. But that’s a tangent and that is for at least one more post!

My “Thursday Thought” came while I was driving back from running some errands earlier today, listening to an “old” Rockapella album in which there is a song with lyrics that go something like “… Give – whatever just what you can is just enough; I NEED YOU NOW TO HELP ME HELP MYSELF …” Now, that’s not really the “message” of the song per se (part of it, no doubt!), but I thought it was an interesting “twist” of what we usually hear. I think these lyrics hit me today despite listening to this album all the time just because of current circumstances in which a person has “twisted” the “saying” “God’s Will be done …” somehow to insinuate God’s “Will” is necessarily aligned with what this person wants. When I first heard this being SAID to another person, I’m sure I made a “WTF?!” face (if you don’t know me personally, I’m DEFINITELY one of those people whose thoughts are rarely hidden because my face is an absolute “tell!”). I know that even when I try to do things for the benefit of others (I WILL come back to the fallacious idea that any act CAN be inherently “selfless,” I promise!) that “God” or the Universe probably doesn’t really care … but if it’s something I REALLY don’t want to do but that I am doing for the welfare of others, the points are “stacking up” in my favor – it’s kind of like the “point” made in the book “The Probability of God” in which the author ultimately states that it’s better to believe in God than not to believe in God JUST IN CASE GOD DOES EXIST. At any rate, whatever I do for “charitable” or “kind” purposes I do (generally) because I would feel badly about myself if I were to do otherwise (that’s a big part of the false nature of “selflessness” right there!). There are many reasons I / we do things to help others AND to help ourselves – but how many people genuinely think that the things WE DO and the things we WANT are somehow inherently in line with “God’s will?” Unless I am in the minority of people with this one as well, it just struck me as particularly strange and particularly egocentric.

To get off THAT tangent and back to the twist-around of “God helps those who help themselves,” I think the idea of “helping others TO HELP THEMSELVES” is an important “interpretation” of that “universal” proverb. It helps ME clarify what I mean when I try to tell others that certain people are not in a position to “help themselves” just because they aren’t mentally or emotionally “THERE” yet. As an example, if a parent has a child who is a heroin addict, the parent can send the child to the best rehab on the planet and if the child has NOT made up his or her mind that he or she wants to HELP himself or herself, the money spent as well as the hope and time invested are all in vain. As the “opioid epidemic” continues to take countless lives, I’m sure more and more people know what I mean when I say something like that. YOU CANNOT HELP SOMEONE WHO IS NOT READY TO BE HELPED AND / OR DOESN’T GENUINELY WANT TO BE HELPED. There are myriad reasons why someone might not want to be helped – self-victimization does, after all, give a person a LOT of attention at the very least (why else would things like “Factitious Disorder Imposed on Self,” formerly “Munchausen Syndrome” be “things?”).

So for all of that writing what I want just to get down to is this – that we MUST BE VIGILANT AND CAUTIOUS IN OUR EFFORTS TO HELP OTHERS. WE CANNOT “CHANGE” PEOPLE. We have to be able to distinguish between people who WANT to improve their lives and their circumstances in some way or for someone or something and between people who just aren’t there yet (if they ever get there). WE CANNOT HELP PEOPLE WHO ARE NOT READY TO HELP THEMSELVES. And thankfully, at least for those of us with a decent sense of “deductive logic” (that is, those of us who place greater importance on things making logical sense than we do in just “helping to help”), it is fairly easy to distinguish between who is working / ACTING to help himself or herself and who is just playing along or isn’t playing at all. Things like thinking “God’s will” necessarily aligns with one’s personal and very self-centered wishes is like a flashing “WARNING!” sign in my mind – to me, it is absolute evidence that this person is NOT READY TO HELP HIMSELF OR HERSELF. HOWEVER, although there are many people we CANNOT HELP NO MATTER HOW HARD WE TRY, WE CAN HELP PEOPLE WHO WANT TO HELP THEMSELVES – and I think this ties in very closely with that more “universal” “God helps those who help themselves” as well as the idea of “helping ‘me’ help ‘myself.'” If we REALLY want to do good, we can direct our energies toward helping those that have SHOWN they NEED THE HELP AND ARE FIGHTING FOR THEMSELVES / ACTING IN A WAY THAT IS IN ACCORD WITH HELPING THEMSELVES. *AGAIN, THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH ‘CAN!’ THIS IS VERY MUCH THE “DISABLED NOT UNABLE!” THING! And I do want to differentiate the difference between WANTING HELP in order to enable oneself TO BE ABLE TO HELP HIMSELF OR HERSELF and between WANTING HELP JUST FOR THE HELP. They are VERY different things – the former takes accountability whereas the latter is just doing the same old “Not helping himself / herself” by being “the victim” and searching for enablers or co-dependents, &c.* I know it is INCREDIBLY difficult when YOU are not the one who is trying to help another person but someone you are very close with IS … and the person that person is trying to help is not in the headspace of helping himself or herself yet. It is difficult because you can’t just shake that person and say “HEY! THIS PERSON IS NOT THERE YET! YOU CAN TALK FOR HOURS AND HOURS AND DO WHATEVER THIS PERSON THINKS HE OR SHE NEEDS BUT GIVE IT ENOUGH TIME AND YOU WILL JUST BE REPEATING THIS AGAIN AND AGAIN!” It would be A+ excellent if that kind of behavior were not only socially acceptable, but well-received by the person to whom it is directed … sadly, neither is true!

And with that tiny bit of humor I will end this crazy long post. I hope you are all having a happy and healthy day wherever you are in the world and please, help others help themselves WHEN THEY HAVE SHOWN THEY ARE READY and they NEED HELP and PLEASE BE THE KIND OF PERSON WHO IS ALSO RECEPTIVE TO RECEIVING HELP IN A MANNER THAT IS ALSO CONSISTENT WITH YOUR OWN READINESS! Thanks much for reading, and as always, my heart is ALWAYS with YOU….

❤ Always, Beth


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