Doing More Harm Than Good….

October 24, 2013

Many of us are taught, starting in childhood, to never, ever give up.

It applies even more so to those of us in the nonprofit, charitable, and faith arenas. We often work with hurting, broken but incredibly valuable people. We want to be the sort of inspirers who those we love and serve will one day be grateful for. And about us, we hope they’ll say, “When everyone else threw in the towel, this person, never gave up! She was always there for me. He never quit no matter how many times I messed up or tried his patience.”

If this is how you think, good for you. That is very noble.  But you’ve got to stop running around after people and cleaning up their messes or they will never get to that place. They will never say that about you.

You know what I’m talking about, don’t you? I’m talking about that fine line between being a perseverant supporter of a person and being an enabler of bad behavior or poor choices. The line between being dependable and creating someone who is dependent on you.

There’s a place for both. But to choose awareness, we must ask ourselves, If, at the end of trying to help someone, I am depleted, spent, and dried up, has anyone really been helped?

SOURCE:  Sarah Cunningham: Plant Yourself. Hold Firm and Give Off Light Be A Lighthouse | Red Letter Christians.

The words above contain great wisdom if we stop to think about them. I too hope that some I help will say nice things about me in the future. But I must realize that it is not about me but about helping them in their struggle with life. When I first started volunteering at the soup kitchen/homeless shelter ten years ago. I thought some of their practices were less than caring. Although we welcome anyone and everyone to the soup kitchen, no questions asked, there are some pretty strict rules for staying at the shelter. Until I was exposed to that environment more and was more aware of these types of circumstance I thought it should have been done differently. The purpose of this shelter and I’m sure almost all others is not to give those who are homeless and quite possibly involved with drugs a permanent home. Staying at the shelter is meant to be a temporary thing and if you break the rules you are asked to leave.

I have also learned that giving money to those who stand on street corners with the usual cardboard sign is not the way to help the homeless. More often than not the money is spent to support their drug or drinking habit. Giving someone a unconditional home or handout just might be doing more harm than good.  If giving money is the way you want to help those in need it is better spent by contributing to those who are on the front lines of poverty. If you really want to personally help that guy standing on the corner take him someplace for a meal or give him a gift card from McDonalds.

To close out this already long post I want to give you one more quote from the source article.

We can do this too. Plant ourselves in our communities and make our purposes and commitments clear. We can reach out to those in need, express interest in supporting their well-being. But we don’t have to frazzle ourselves chasing them in circles. Instead, we shine light strong and steady. And when they go through their cycles and pass by us again, we keep shining light. We persevere to shine it on them every time they pass. And eventually, when they are ready and tired of darkness, they may very well come to a place where the light starts to look good and they’re more interested in staying in a sunnier, healthier, happier place.

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