There is nothing wrong with wanting to help someone, care for them or give to them. Everyone needs some help sometimes, especially when they are facing difficult challenges.
But how do you feel if you are on the receiving end of help which somehow doesn’t help but rather leaves you with a sense of debt?
At this point you are at risk of entering into a loop where it is possible that a helper can become addicted to help and a receiver can become addicted to being helped.
If you are the carer you can begin to get a kick out of caring or become hooked on helping, then enjoying the sense of power it brings along with the debts you create.
If you are the receiver you are at risk of going down the path labeled, learned helplessness.
So, you can see that there is a possibility of a helpful habit connecting to a helplessness habit. Sometimes this gets labeled co-dependency but that may not be the whole story.
We will look at learned helplessness another day, but may I focus on this personality trait of “over-helping” or “over-caring”. Can you see that the problem is not helping or caring it is that prefix “over”.
What is the stress connection? The stressful feature of the over-helping personality is that eventually it becomes deeply disappointing. The one you are over-helping will start to reject your help and the over-helping habit you have developed will leave you dissatisfied, frustrated and angry.
Dear Martha in the Gospels showed signs of this habit when she wanted Jesus’ visit to her home to be about catering. She wanted to control the event through her over-helping and frustration followed.
There is a possible side effect of this habit. The over-helper can become stressed by concentrating on the helpee and ignoring themselves. In the Song of Solomon, the woman complained that she had been pressurized into caring for everyone else’s vineyard when her own was in ruins (Song of Solomon 1:6). This is an illustration of this syndrome (not necessarily and example) whereby the helper loses focus on her own needs.
Over-helpers have a tendency to forget that a baby arrived at Christmas of whom it was said, “the government will be upon his shoulders”. Similarly, Paul tells the Galatian Christians to bear one another’s burdens and in the next breath to bear your own load. The over-helper wants not only to share burdens but take over the other people’s loads.
We all have our own loads to carry and will do well to respect that in each other while not devaluing the kindness of helping.
Over-helping, however, is a pathway to stress both in you and the one you wish to help. It’s complicated, but worth understanding.
Work well today,
© Geoff Shattock February 2019
Song of Songs 1:6
6 Do not stare at me because I am dark, because I am darkened by the sun. My mother’s sons were angry with me and made me take care of the vineyards; my own vineyard I had to neglect.
2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
5 for each one should carry their own load.
40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
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