It’s amazing how many Chicken Soup for the Soul stories I read from people who have trouble accepting help from their friends and families. Sometimes these strong people resist letting friends and family provide them with clearly needed assistance, even when they are going through hard times.
It actually takes strength to accept help! You have to look at yourself differently and cede a bit of control to someone else.
Debra Ayers Brown explains this in her story called “Poison Ivy” in our book about finding your inner strength. Debra was facing major surgery, but she was treating it like another chore on her to-do list. Instead of taking it easy or lining up some post-surgery support, Debra attacked all the poison ivy in her garden, ripping out every vine she could find.
She was worried about how little she would accomplish after her surgeries. She wouldn’t be allowed to drive or work, even at home. Debra wondered how her family would manage if all the driving duties fell on her husband.
Then her friend Caroline called. “I know how independent you are, but you need to let your friends help you,” she said. “Please – at least until you’re back on your feet.”
Debra said that she didn’t expect to need any help. She heard Caroline sigh as she hung up.
The next day, Debra even offered to drive the car as she and her husband set off for the hospital. Then when she came to after the surgery, she told her husband to go home. He refused, saying, “You need me and I’m here.”
Something about his simple declaration gave Debra “an incredible sense of peace, like a long-overdue surrender.” This was the beginning of the new Debra, the one who would let her family and friends help her. She said, “It was strange, but depending on family and friends seemed like a kind of truce with my lists and duties.”
Debra started to feel different, and also like she was being a better friend. Caroline came by one day to visit and thanked Debra for accepting her assistance. She said, “When you let someone help, you allow them to feel needed.”
Debra ended up accepting help for the next six weeks and, as she reports, “I felt a freedom I’d not known for many years – a freedom from the constant turmoil of living up to my expectations of myself. I’d always thought that depending on others would be tantamount to admitting I was inadequate. Yet there was something incredibly generous about asking for help, something almost spiritual. I’d allowed responsibilities and obligations to strangle the life out of my relationships. Accepting help turned out to be the cure.”
Perhaps you’re in the position of offering help to someone who is resisting it – an elderly parent or a friend. Just tell them straight out that accepting your assistance will be a favor to you. That tweak to their perspective may do the trick.
Do you have trouble accepting help from others? If you knew that accepting their help would make them feel good, would that make a difference to you? What kind of help do you think you could start with?