Being Truly Helpful

by Robert Perry

How to be helpful to another is something we all wrestle with. When someone I care about is in need I find myself struggling to locate the right words, and I worry that I will bungle things. In short, I become filled with self-concern. It does not take a genius to see that being caught up in concern about oneself runs directly counter to the goal of helping someone else.

This self-concern has many facets to it. Even when the goal of being helpful is foremost in my mind, I also tend to entertain a host of other goals. I want to be physically comfortable. I want to appear wise and caring. I want to avoid looking like an idiot. To some degree, then, I am not just here to help the other person. I feel that I am also here to represent myself, to portray myself as a good helper.

As I mentioned above, I tend to be worried about what to say and do, what words and actions will be the most helpful for this person. Don't you find the same thing? The weight of feeling responsible for another can be extremely heavy.

Another facet of this self-concern is that, to be perfectly honest, there are times when I simply would rather be somewhere else. I'd rather be relaxing and enjoying myself than trying to save the world. Pouring out helpfulness to others can easily seem like a sacrifice—a noble sacrifice, yes, but a sacrifice nonetheless.

These thoughts are not pretty, but they are there. They plague the mind of the helper, and stand like a granite boulder between him and the person he seeks to help. He may try to ignore these thoughts, and do his best to put on a helpful front. But still there is the fact of this boulder of self-concern that lies between himself and the other.

How does one roll away this stone? Doing so is a long process, but specific aids can help along the way. There is a prayer in A Course in Miracles, a favorite among Course students, that is designed for this very task. Each one of its lines has the effect of dispelling some facet of the self-concern I discussed above. I often use it in situations where I am called on to be helpful, and its effect is truly uplifting. It lifts my mind out of its heavy sense of burden and into a more genuinely helpful place. If you take the time to say it to yourself, especially while applying it to a particular situation, I think you will see what I mean:

I am here only to be truly helpful.
I am here to represent Him Who sent me.
I do not have to worry about what to say or what to do, because He Who Sent me will direct me.
I am content to be wherever He wishes, knowing He goes there with me.
I will be healed as I let Him teach me to heal. (T-2.V.18:2-6)