When Helping Isn’t Really Helping

There comes a point in time when helping someone really isn’t helping them.   You could actually be doing someone a disservice by helping.  How do you know when to recognize this?

We spend many years teaching our children the skills they need to succeed on their own once they are in the real world.  When they have difficulties some parents make excuses and do things for their children.   Most kids choose to learn from the situation but will still expect the parent to get them out of tough spots because things have always been made easy for them.

This leads to an entitlement issue.  They think that the parent owes them.  They will in turn, lash out when the parent steps back and decides they have given them the skills they need to succeed because they don’t want to actually take the action themselves.  It’s easier for them not to.  They have learned how to manipulate situations and parents (and others) to get what they want.  When things are no longer easy and the effort needs to come from within, they resist and fight back.

It isn’t just teenagers who act like this.  I’m sure we can all name a relative or friend or associate who is guilty of acting like this.

Sometimes not helping is the best thing you can do for a person.  It will hurt to watch them suffer for a bit but hopefully the suffering will cause them to act on their own and to own up to and take care of their own responsibilities.

Yes, it is a very kind thing to help others but if they are not truly benefiting from your help, it’s time to stop.

You should also be cautious of helping others just because you will benefit from the situation.  That is not actually doing things out of the kindness of your heart and is not helping either of you in the long run.

Here are some helpful questions to ask yourself  to see if your help is actually what the person really needs:

  • Do they really need help?  Some people only ask for help because they are being lazy.  They can swim but want a life preserver thrown their way so they don’t have to work as hard.
  • Is that person trying to help themselves?  If not, your help is not benefiting the person.  They need to learn to do things for themselves to survive on their own.
  • Is that person grateful for your help?  If they are not, there should be no question.  You should not be helping them.  That’s not fair to you.
  • Are you helping them because you want to help them or because you have to help them?  If you want to help and the above questions are not a no, then by all means, help.  If you feel like it is an obligation, you may want to think twice.
  • Is the reason they need your help due to a situation they have gotten themselves into that was unnecessary?  Perhaps in this type of situation, they should be learning from natural consequences and help should not be given.  If you choose to help, you will be doing both you and them a disservice and bringing unnecessary negativity into your own life.
  • If you did not help them, would they be able to do this for themselves?  If they are unable and their desire is strong to do for themselves and they would be grateful for your assistance, then help in the areas where you can.

Helping is never a requirement.  It is a kind gesture.  You have the right to choose in any situation.  When you feel like your right to choose to help has been taken away, that is not a healthy situation.  You have to decide what is best for you.

You may need to evaluate those you have been helping, why you have been helping them and whether they are actually benefiting from your help or if they would benefit more by learning how to do things for themselves.

I think it’s also important to mention that when you help someone who needs it, be sure you keep a clear line of communication of where the help is actually needed and how the person needs it done.  If you are not doing something correctly, the lines of communication need to be open enough to be able to hear where changes need to be made without feeling the person is being ungrateful.

I have noticed in my own life that I need to step back and let some people help themselves, that it is the only way they will learn what they need to from the situation.  It is not my responsibility to constantly bail people out or think of a solution for them.  In doing so, I have been hindering them from self discovery and the feeling of accomplishment they would receive by doing it themselves.

Tell me, have you run into situations where you realized that you weren’t actually doing anyone any favors by offering your assistance?  What was the outcome?


8 thoughts on “When Helping Isn’t Really Helping

  1. This is true in my life. It’s a hard balance because I have a very stable and blessed life and so I give back to the community by helping. Sometimes it is the right thing to do. Sometimes not so much. But I will say I’d rather other help than under help. I reach for balance and discretion, but err on the side of overhelping.

    1. I completely agree. There are times when people really need the help and it when it is a selfless act on our part and appreciated from the recipient, we can all find a higher level of peace.

      I also think it’s important to know when we are helping someone who would benefit more from us not helping. Some people depend on other way too much, to a fault and will never learn the satisfaction of doing things for themselves if someone else is always doing for them.

      It is so great what you do, especially if you do not get burned out or lose time for yourself because of it. Great job finding the balance.

      Missy Bell

  2. Hi – stopping by from the UBC and Facebook! Great post! It’s so true- I get really tired of those who feel entitled to things, for any number of reasons. It’s also difficult to NOT help your kids, if you’re a mom, especially when it’s a matter of them doing something that they have to learn from, but you want to protect them!

    I can also think of times when people (husbands, kids, friends) act helpless or they’re honestly just being lazy, and as long as I continue doing things for them, they will continue NOT helping themselves!

    1. I am so thankful that you stopped by. it seems the more we do for them then realize later that they could have done for themselves, we are just enabling them, like you said. I want them to think for themselves, act for themselves and take pride in that.

      It’s important to not stop helping when it is necessary but finding the balance can really help us with our stress levels.

      Thank you again,

  3. In the end, care taking (disguised as helping) doesn’t work. When we do for others that which they can clearly do for themselves, we send a clear message that we don’t think they are capable. Those we love, the ones who we are doing for, end up resenting us.

    1. I agree Peggy. Thank you. It’s a great point. Sometimes they want to be able to do it on their own and figure it out on their own but when we step in and try to solve it before they have a chance to, it takes away their power. It’s so important to recognize.


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