Receiving Help

Since the baby was born, and even before, we’ve had tons of help from the people in our lives. It’s been a hard first couple of months. Not for any particular reason, I just think the transition from one to two kids is a tough one. I would like to think I could have done it without family and so many friends around to help, but honestly I’m not sure I could have.

I’ve been thinking a lot about offering and receiving help recently, for obvious reasons. You would think it would be simple: someone needs help, you offer it, they receive it, and that’s that. But we’re human, and we’re complicated beings, so that’s not all there is to it.

The sad reality is that help often comes with strings attached. I’m sure we would all love to say that we gladly and freely offer help to people as needed, without expecting anything in return. But that’s just not the case. Whether it’s a simple thank you or a returned favor of equal value, a lot of the time we expect something back from them. This can make helping people hard, because you don’t always get what you want in return, and that can create disappointment, resentment, and rifts in relationships. And then there are times when we feel like we should help someone, but we don’t necessarily want to, and we do it anyway, which can lead to those same disappointments, resentments and rifts.

Since I’ve been on the receiving end of a lot of help recently, though, I’ve been thinking more about how it affects the party on that side of the transaction. Things get even more complicated here.

It may be hard to give help sometimes, but I’ve realized that it’s even harder for me to receive help. I don’t want to need help. And usually, I can get by without much help. I’ve always been a pretty capable person, and I pride myself on that. But I’ve slowly learned over the years—especially with kids—that it’s healthy to receive help.

I’ve also realized, through giving help and receiving it, that people enjoy helping others. I love helping people. I love giving people gifts. I love taking them meals. I love lifting a burden from someone. And I’m often a little let down when I offer help to someone and they don’t receive it.

But there are still those expectations, the ones people have when they offer help. So whenever someone offers help to me, I hesitate. My thoughts range from “what if they don’t think I’m capable on my own” to “what if I don’t return according to their expectations” to “what if they are just offering help because they think they should?”

I was told by a lot of people before the baby was born to accept the help that was offered, so for the most part I have. We barely cooked a dinner the first month after she came, which was awesome. But it also attacked my pride in my ability to handle myself, to manage my household, and to be a good mom. And it made me insecure about how all of these helpers felt about me, what they were secretly thinking inside as they brought me meals or took care of my children or cleaned my house.

I guess when it comes down to it, it is extremely humbling to receive help, especially as much help as I’ve received over the last several weeks. And it’s hard to let go of all the anxieties that come up surrounding it. You would think, and hope, that receiving help could be a purely joyful thing, but at least for me it’s not.

And then my thoughts wander to what the biblical view on all of this is, but of course I’ve gone on too long. Maybe I’ll write about that next time.


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