Stop Robbing People of Their Problems
Helping people is one of the greatest joys you’ll ever feel in your life, and if you’ve ever been on the receiving end of that help, you’ll also know how much you appreciate that help when it arrives, especially if you were in a very sticky situation and you needed that help more than you’d like to admit. But here’s the thing, you might not always want to help someone, especially if it’s crucial for their growth. Either it’s character growth or career growth, lending a helping hand might not always be the best option, and sometimes the best option for us is just to be there for them and let them face their challenges head on.
I realized this when I was reading Gregory McKeown’s book called Essientialism (The Disciplined Pursuit of Less) in which he told the story that Henry Cloud told in his book called Boundaries, where the parents of a 25-year-old man came to him for some help without their son being present in the meeting itself because he doesn’t think that he has a problem. After listening to their story, Henry concluded that their son really didn’t have a problem, they do. You see, the reason Henry said that their son didn’t have a problem wasn’t because he’s not doing well or because he’s freeloading with his parents. It’s because his parents, although they clearly don’t approve of his behavior, had decided to help him anyway, effectively taking his problem away from him, and with it, his opportunity to learn and grow from the challenge that he will eventually face. The first step toward change is acknowledging that you have a problem and you’re actively taking steps to make changes, but when you’re robbed of that realization that you have a problem, you’ll basically never change because you don’t even know that you have a problem, even when you do.
There are a fair few problems with doing this too.
First of all, you’re only adding problems to your life.
I’m not against lending a helping hand to others, as a matter of fact, I think that helping others is a noble goal and that it’s one of the best ways if not the only way for us to move forward as a society together, hand in hand. But if you really think about it, if you’re helping someone who doesn’t need or want your help, you’re not really doing anything for them other than reinforcing their beliefs that they don’t really have a problem, to begin with. You can’t make a lazy student study hard unless they think that it’s something that they need to do, you can make a reckless spender save money because they think that money is expendable even when it really isn’t. All you’re doing when you’re helping them is really just adding problems to your life that you don’t really need or have the time for. Sometimes, the best way to help someone is just to be there for them, try and steer them to the right path, and stay silently in the background rooting for them. Not every help needs to be direct and certainly doesn’t have to involve you directly for it to be considered as help.
The second reason is that you’re taking away their chance to learn, grow, and solve their own problems. When you do this, you’re doing more harm than good because that person you’re trying to help is being robbed of their chance to fully grow into the best version of themselves that they can be. Think about this as if you’ve never let a child walk on their own and insist on carrying them even as they grow past the age where they should’ve been able to walk on their own. You’re adding burden to yourself by having to carry a child while halting their growth to be able to walk on their own by insisting that you carry them because you don’t want them to fall.
Let me tell you how my parents used to treat my little brother. My mom had always loved my brother and wanted the best for him. So she did what most doting parents would do and did almost everything for him; taking away his chance to learn and grow on his own. And once she leaves him, which one day she will, he will need to re-learn everything that he needs to survive because he had never learned anything in his life because he’s always had mom to take care of him and do everything for him — there’s no room for growth. If he refuses to learn, then he’ll be in big trouble because there’s no one else around him who would take mom’s role and do everything for him and he can’t exactly do those things himself yet because he’s never had to because mom was always there so you can only imagine the shock that he must face.
This relates to leadership skills as most leaders want the best for their team, but most of the time, they don’t even give their team the space to make mistakes and try things out which ends up with them failing to delegate and do everything on their own, splitting their focus and attention to things that could’ve easily been delegated to their team members which ultimately compromises their potential and creativity.
Don’t rob people of their problems. Problems help people grow as they find their way and work around those problems on their own. By taking it away from them, not only are you taking their chance to grow and level up, but you’re also just adding extra, unnecessary work for yourself that you’re not even supposed to do. Let them learn to fall, and they’ll eventually learn how to walk.