“Can I help you with that?” “No thanks, I’m good.”
This is my standard answer. Help is a four-letter-word where I’m concerned. The word “help” comes out and I’m an immediate NO! Maybe not that bitchy, but no nonetheless. There are a few reasons for this…
Maybe I don’t want your help because you won’t do a good enough job (don’t lie, you think this too), maybe it will take me longer to explain what I need than it will to simply do it myself (yes.. all the time). I can do it myself, I don’t need your help. Needing your help makes me weak. Perhaps you’ll think I’m not tough enough, or you’ll perceive me as incompetent. This is real. I admit it fully, but for me there is a deeper reason, one that struck home the other day.
I don’t want to bother you because I want you to like me and I don’t want to be a nuisance. Am I too loud? Am I in the way? and God help me if I need anything. Like a moment of your time…
We complain all the time as pastors and church leaders that we are expected to do things that are “not our job” but the reality is we often make them our job to avoid burdening someone else.
I actually believe my time is less important than someone else’s, deep down I think I am constantly in the way, and bothering you.
So I refuse your help on Christmas Eve, my busiest night of the year, when you ask if there’s anything you can do. “No, I got it.” I want you to be relaxed, I want you to sit with your family, I want you to see that church is not a burden. Meanwhile I’m the one lighting the candles in the stained glass windows. I’m the one directing visitors to the restroom, I’m the one who ends up flustered as we begin service because I wouldn’t let you help.
Who does this serve?
I write this on Christmas Eve because I think about how many of us will refuse help today and tomorrow. Not just as pastors but as people. How many will be stuck in a kitchen secretly resentful preparing the meal while the rest of the family plays with their toys. “Mom, can I help you?” “No thanks, I’m good.”
How many of us will deny want we want or need over the next few days not out of selflessness, but because we simply didn’t ask for help? Because we too are afraid of being a nuisance? And even more than that. How many of us, collected around extended family will fall back into patterns of hiding ourselves, staying out of the way, in an attempt to conform into a family structure that doesn’t actually exists anymore? Reverting ourselves to a teenager or whiny 7 year old.
I have learned over the last year that I am not a nuisance, in fact, I am only a nuisance when I do not ask for help. Or when I say no to another’s offer. I realized that I only asked for help from certain people. People I trusted, trusted to not “hold it against me”, people I had already “done so much for” so I wouldn’t feel indebted to them.
This year I have been so broken, so fragile, that I could not help but let people help me. It wasn’t always perfect. When I called a friend crying I would apologize for bothering them, calling them everyday, being so “needy”. (ugh, that word is the worst!)
But what I realized is that it was a sign of respect to allow others to help me, to give me things, to take a burden off my shoulders. Allowing them to help me, in the ways that they could, allowed them to love me when I felt unloveable.
I’m trying to do better with the “no”. I’m trying to take “help” out of the four-letter-word category, but it’s a practice, a ritual. I’m trying to have enough respect for myself to ask for help. It will continue to be a challenge and I will try to correct myself when “no” comes out and say instead, “Sure, that’d be great.”