Helping others is an art and a science.
If you solve someone’s problems without providing them with the tools to solve them in the future, you risk creating a dependency. If you impose solutions that don’t match the true need, you risk creating future imbalances. If you act without understanding, your efforts will be hit or miss.
Effective service requires an awareness of the factors at work.
There are many ways to develop this awareness. Asking questions is one obvious one. Don’t jump to concussions! Take time to analyze the situation from as many angles as possible. Suspend your own prejudices, reserve judgment, and be patient. The solution is revealed in the process of asking.
Empathy also pays huge dividends.
Put yourself in the person’s shoes if you can. If they are troubled about someone else, put yourself in that person’s shoes as well. Become a companion in tribulation. “Feel” the situation, but don’t become subject to its constraints, limitations, or heightened emotions.
That said, avoid sympathy! Sympathy implies subjection to, while empathy allows you to gain a feeling impression of the situation without becoming part of the problem.
Remain above the fray, but be accessible.
Take care not to appear so “above it all” that you come off as being out of touch or impractical. People love to let themselves off on a technicality, and this is a common one. “I could never be like him or her, they are so amazing and I am pathetic. I shouldn’t even bother trying.”
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to serving others.
You’ll likely learn from experience that it pays not to be too obvious about it. Don’t make a big deal of the fact that you’re helping. Remain humble, but insistent. If you are unmoved by the situation, it is more likely that they will take courage in facing that to which they are subject.
Also, you’re better off typically if the person you are serving sees the solution as being his or her own. This is where the art of serving comes to in to play.
Most people’s needs have defenses built up around them. Their needs are perceived as vulnerabilities and being human, they tend to hide or build of protective barriers to prevent others from getting too close. If the fear of being hurt is strong enough in the individual, he or she will likely push you–even if you bring a solution–away.
You may have to find a back door to help them, or at least a distraction that diverts their attention while you plant the seeds of the solution in their mind or heart.
For all the negative press serpents have received through the ages, sometimes it is advisable to be “wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” Don’t rush in like Don Quijote, ready to vanquish a misunderstood enemy. Take your time or at least take the time available to you. Don’t rush in where as it was put, “angels fear to tread.”
Learn the science of serving. Practice the art of serving. And above all, be a companion in tribulation.
The world needs you.
Photo credit Courtney Cook on Unsplash