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Sunday, January 14, 2007

Asking for Help

Another Day of Catholic Pondering brings up an issue which I think is common to many of us; that of asking for help.

I have to admit, I can relate. Maybe it's from my upbringing; I grew up in a very chaotic dysfunctional home, and admitting our very real poverty, admitting what was happening in the home, seemed like weakness to me. And so I learned to pretend that everything was OK, and that nothing was wrong.

And when I left home three times my senior year and lived with other people, I saw it as a simple survival need; but I never asked for help. Because I had learned long ago that no one could help us.

And so as an adult, I still struggle with this, and now I realize that this problems stems from Pride; I have a very bad pride habit.

This problem was brought to my attention once again this last weekend. On Friday when my car died, I did ask for my coworker to come over, but I really wasn't sure why; my car was dead. It wasn't like he was going to fix it. But I was hoping that by the time he arrived, my car would get some sense and start like it had all day.

Nope, it remained dead. So I told my coworker that I would just get a cab home. He offered to give me a ride, and guiltily, I accepted. He was great...brought me to the shop up the road, drove me home. But I didn't ask him...I only accepted his offer and felt guilty the entire time!

What was THAT about? He had to go by my city anyway, so it wasn't hugely out of his way, and I would have made the same offer to a stranded friend.

Notice that my first instinct was to call a cab, absorb all the impact of this terrible inconvenience, rather than admit to someone that I needed a ride. I'd almost preferred to pay someone rathar than ask someone I knew for help.

That evening I figured I'd get a rental the next day to drive myself to the shop...going back again to this "independence" I thought I had to have.

But I did call my neighbor and asked her if she was available to give me a ride, or, if my car wasn't done, to lend me her car to run errands. She was happy to help, and yet, I still felt guilty, and still have this sense of shame; I feel completely shamed when I have to admit I am vulnerable in some way.

I know that I've done nothing shameful. My car died. That was it. It happens to EVERYONE, and I did nothing to cause it. And yet I have this sense that if I ask for help, I'm putting someone else out somehow, imposing myself upon them, and in a way, it's almost physically painful.

I can ask people to answer questions, and online, I can ask people for prayers. But do you know that in person, I have extreme difficulty in asking for prayers, and if I do so, it nearly brings me to tears. Yet when someone asks me for prayers, I'm overjoyed!

There's something off balance here, and I don't think I'm the only one.

We are all members of the mystical Body of Christ; this means we have to both be willing to help each other, and be willing to admit our failings, our vulnerabilities, and our needs, so that others may be able to extend help to us when we need it.

We all need to ask for help sometimes, and we all need to be that person to extend the help. Sometimes, we just have to learn to overcome our sense of pride and be willing to go to those we love and admit we aren't as strong as we wish we could be.

We have to depend upon God; and since God uses others to provide for us, we have to learn likewise to not just go to prayer, but to other PEOPLE when we come face to face with our own limitations.

10 comments:

Angela Messenger said...

Adoro, great post. I can relate. As a mom I can relate even more. I dread ever having a terminal illness or being incapacitated and requiring help especially from my children. After all, I am the helper, the nurturer, the gift giver, the money loaner.

Maybe it makes me feel like I have some control over my life to be "godlike" by giving others what they cannot give themselves. It's so complicated, isn't it.

Anonymous said...

So what has been going through my mind since yesterday evening at Mass, Adoro, was that Jesus himself let people minister to him. I have thought long and hard, in the last 24 hours, about how I have to sometimes LET people be Jesus to me, LET them perform their works of mercy, LET them be my friends in the truest sense of that word.

Wow, swallowing my pride hurts. But, in the end, it's a win-win. Who needs pride? (And oh, do I need help with this!)

I enjoyed your insight. I'm touched that my little thoughts inspired such big ones from you. :)

I'm praying for you, whether you ask or not!!!

Suzanne said...

It is good and I also think, a great leap of faith to realize that sometimes we have to ask for help. It must be so difficult for you due to your past. So now admitting this is a huge gain. You gain my prayers, too!

Anonymous said...

As a fellow control freak, I can totally relate. I know why Pride is one of the seven deadly sins. It's insidious, because it dresses up as a good thing: "Look how I never put anyone else out. I am the ultimate low maintenance friend/relation."

But if we can't receive graciously, I think it is harder for us to give graciously.

I'll pray for you on this. And I'll ask you to pray for me, too. :-)

Adoro Te Devote said...

Thank you, everyone, for your comments. I KNEW I wasn't the only one, and anon/Snoring Scholar (my inspiration) reminded me that we all need help in asking for help!

Angela ~ Being incapacitated by an illness is horiffically terrifying for me because I live alone, my family is not nearby, I have 2 dogs to care for (and I've never gone anywhere for vacation because there's no one to take them for me), etc. Even the idea of being on crutches makes me realize that I would need to find help just to take my dogs on walks...and I don't know anyone who can do this for me! But yet I also know that God provides, but sometimes He makes us ask...and we have to overcome our own pride in order to get what is needed ON BEHALF OF SOMEONE ELSE. In my case, it would be the dogs.

Anon 1 (S.S.) ~ Can you relate the specific examples you were thinking of where Jesus let people minister to him? I think I need those images in my mind, and I can't think of anything other than when the woman washed his feet.

Suzanne ~ I think I've admitted this to myself, but never "publically" (isn't it funny we consider the internet "public"?), but maybe people who know me well have already realized this problem of mine..maybe not. It comes back to the safety of being mostly anonymous...very few people from my "real life" know of my blog. They know my blog, but I have not given them the URL or my ID here online. For all I know, someone who knows me is reading this, has figured me out, and has simply chosen to respect my anonyminity online. I have no idea, frankly. So admitting this online isn't so hard. Admitting it in person would be very difficult.

Anon 2 ~ Thank you for your prayers...I need them! But what's weird is that, while I have "control issues", I'm not really a "control freak". I'm a selective perfectionist, generally pretty easy-going when confronted by most things (like my car breakdown..I didn't freak out...I just accepted the fact it didn't work), etc. It's hard to explain.

But I used to LIVE with a control freak...and she drove me CRAZY!

Maybe we all have 'control issues" to some extent. I am beginning to wonder.

Ray from MN said...

I thought an aversion to "asking for help" was a guy thing.

But maybe it is a late 20th century thing. My parents and certainly theirs were raised to depend upon family and friends and certainly did call on them in times of need.

But many of us are of the "Please, mother, I'd rather do it myself" generation.

We don't know how to ask for help, and some of us don't know how to say thank you, either.

I'm talking about me.

Another good post, Adoro!

Cathy_of_Alex said...

I don't like to ask for help either.

In my case, I think it's a hold-over from my radical feminism days. I was taught for so long never to ask for help because its a sign of weakness that I quit doing it.

It is pride, absolutely.

Kiwi Nomad 2006 said...

Adoro... I don't think that being unable to ask for help is something you should be ashamed of. Because of my circumstances when growing up, I also did not know how to ask for help for many years. I grew up having to be independent, so I did. A social worker friend once helped me understand my childhood experiences better when she described them as 'formative'. Some things in my adult life are a carryover from my childhood - they are not a result of 'pride'.

Adoro Te Devote said...

Kiwi ~ I understand what you're saying, but I disagree; we have to allow others to be Christ to us. We do not exist in a vacuum, and often, when we need help, others may recognize it but wait for us to come to them because they don't want to intrude. Too much independence can be a very destructive thing. And while it's not necessarily prideful or sinful per se to be independent, when it goes too far, then it IS sinful. It IS Pride to think we can always do it on our own and to refuse to request help when we legitimately need it. A couple years ago, a priest was trying to explain this to me, describing what you call the "formative" years as having caused a sort of "self-centeredness" in me. He was right, but I didn't understand him at the time. I understand now...and I've come to realize that that dysfunctional "formative" experience has built quite a breeding ground for Pride...and boy, do I struggle with Pride! Most of the stuff I do wrong goes back to that very Deadly Sin.

Now, I wouldn't say that you're necessarily in the same boat as I am, and I would DEFINITELY not presume to tell you that your indedpendence is in any way crossing the line to Pride. But for myself, it does.

I don't mean in any way, though to suggest that independence and self-reliance are inherently evil or prideful. Please forgive me if I gave that impression!

Anne said...

Wow...can I ever relate to that.

I am more than happy to help others (usually...hehehe) but when I need something...sometimes I would prefer to go without it than ask for it. Now that's BAD.

I think though, it may be partly a result of the culture we live in - people tend more to be little islands than live in a close knit communities. Generally, everyone wants to be the best, be perfect (just look at the women on the covers of magazines at the grocery store, to give a shallow example), almost "godlike"..."it's my choice"...and admitting that one needs help certainly takes away from that illusion.