Saturday, October 30, 2010

When "Helping" is Hurting: The Struggle is Part of the Process

How often do we try to "help" someone else and actually end up hurting them?

I think that women are especially prone to do this. When we see a family member, friend, or even a stranger struggling, our first response is to relieve their suffering, take away the pain, make things all better. (That's what good, charitable, Christians do, right??!)

But what if, when we jump in so quickly, we're actually denying that person the opportunity to feel the pain of a wrong decision? We could be keeping them from going through a growth experience that's been tailored specifically for them. It could be Heavenly Father's way of getting their attention or trying to get them to turn to Him. What about when we take their burden on ourselves when it was going to be their blessing to grow stronger from carrying it with help from God?

Not only can we harm someone else by removing an obstacle that has been put in place to change their current direction, but we can end up wandering with them in crooked paths because we've let ourselves become entrapped in their situation.

I know that as Christians we have covenanted to help and bless others. As Mormons we took on the additional covenant to carry one another's burdens, mourn with those who mourn, comfort those in need of comfort (Mosiah 18:9.) But I think we have to be very careful that we're not stepping in to carry someone else's burden of sin or error when what we should be carrying is the burden of loving them through whatever struggles they face. We have to have great insight and discernment to know how to help in the right way.

Think about it this way: if you had a major problem, would you automatically turn to your mother, spouse, friend, or anyone else and ask them to "take care of it" while you go back to your normal routine? Would you be comfortable laying the burden of your responsibility on someone else's shoulders? Would you be able to dump your problem on someone who had no involvement in creating it? For most mature people, the answer to these questions would be a resounding "No way!"

So why do we feel the need to jump in and offer to do those same things for someone we love? Why would we want them to skip the problem-solving steps that will enable them to mature and develop better judgment?? I'm pretty sure Heavenly Father would much rather have us support our loved ones by encouraging them to turn to Him for input on how to solve their problems. He's going to have much better answers than we ever will! And even when His solutions are hard, and aren't what we would have proposed, we need to share our faith that His ways are better than our ways. We need to love those who struggle, support them with listening ears, caring hearts, and appropriate help. But we shouldn't be keeping others from experiencing hard things when it's the right thing for them.

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