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)

3 Comments

  1. David Pomatti
    Posted March 21, 2016 at 2:41 am | Permalink

    I want to help, but I worry about what helping is most needed and would be effective. Sometimes the scenario plays out like this (facetious) dialogue:
    He: “What can I do to help you?”
    She: “You can leave me alone!”
    That in itself can be a ‘call for help,’ especially if the person is angry and upset (and projecting it), but how to give THAT kind of (called-for) help?
    I am reminded of a passage in the Text: “To join her dreams is thus to meet her not, because her dreams would separate from you.” (T.28.IV, 4:2) This seems to complicate simple see-what-needs-to-be-done helping.

  2. Robert Perry
    Posted March 22, 2016 at 4:15 am | Permalink

    David, I think the Course’s answer is to ask for guidance, for exactly the reason you mention: it is very difficult to know exactly what is going to be helpful to another person. I find that guidance seems especially available in situations where someone is in need but I don’t know what to say. It is surprising how a quick asking within can bring a sudden new idea that lifts the situation.

  3. Joseph Miller
    Posted April 2, 2016 at 12:09 am | Permalink

    Robert,
    A very honest and important reflection. Timely for me. This week I interviewed a celebrity musician for an article, and felt bad for a day afterwards at my “performance.” I was brought to similar thoughts. It was clear to me, as I probed the sore spots, that I had hidden agendas. I wasn’t simply there to be helpful to the musician. I also wanted to be liked by her; viewed as “specially” insightful about her work, etc. Those bad feelings don’t come from nowhere; they always indicate expectations we have sown. Reminds me that ACIM teaches that grievances and idle wishes are partners. And those wishes can be just below the threshold of consciousness, until they get inflamed. It is humbling to realize what a subtle and difficult thing it is to be a pure helper. “Miracles are everyone’s right, but purification is necessary first.”

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