When Is Helping Helpful?

I recently had a conversation about helping people and all the difficulties that I have encountered over a lifetime of trying to help.

I was raised by religious and working class parents (farmers) in a small town, who taught us that we should always help others, and they were even very generous to complete strangers. That was how we were raised, so it didn’t surprise me when those habits rubbed off on me.

For my entire life I have been prone to acts of extreme generosity and trying to help others to the best of my ability. Don’t misinterpret me, I am not suggesting I am perfect, absolutely not, no one is. But I have often wondered if there is a difference between being a help and being a Martyr?

As I look back now I can name countless times when my caring, helping and generous nature has backfired and left me hurt and wounded. It’s heartbreaking when that has happened because ‘you never see it coming‘ and it hurts so deeply.  I thought I was helping, but perhaps I wasn’t or I might have been trying to help the wrong people. I guess I won’t know the answer to these things for now…

Nothing I did or do is for my own ‘glory’ or recognition but the very last thing I expect is my actions to be cruelly used against me, or my friendship to be abused. It has the potential to make us give up on people. It has the potential to make you feel that people are unpredictable and untrustworthy… If I let it.

My husband recognizes my generous nature and does his best to temper it by encouraging me to be careful. To exercise caution and to consider myself first. It has been like a see saw of actions and reactions but with his help I am trying to find a balance. How do you act selflessly but look after yourself at the same time?

He worries even more about these issues because he knows that events like these have a much greater toll on someone physically weak or compromised. He has had to help me pick up the pieces and ride the backlash of pain and suffering.

When I became ill I became acutely aware how much illness and diseases hurts and how lonely it can be, I tried to find ways to help others who were suffering and I also hoped to help sufferers find hope, dignity and strength by uniting together; hence Autoimmunitygirl was born. I am not sure how successful I have been. Perhaps time will tell… Perhaps it won’t.

Success to me would be seeing a unified network of autoimmune sufferers who have the strength, backing, assistance, hope, understanding and support of an entire world of fellow sufferers, regardless of their age, gender or diagnosis.

I believed that together we have the real power to show the world that our battles are real and to raise awareness and research to the levels they need to be. In the same way that cancer patients have successfully done. I hoped this would be possible and I hoped it could happen in my lifetime.

Imagine the disappointment I feel when some of the biggest obstacles can be the sufferers themselves. Heartbreaking.

I have witnessed anger, pettiness, jealousy, competitiveness, rudeness, judgmental behaviour and lies thrown at me and at other sufferers. It leaves me speechless and wondering if part of the reason we aren’t where we need to be is do to our own behaviors? Could WE actually be a big part of the problem?

In order to get support of those we need support from we have to be willing to muster the strength and character to show ourselves as worth supporting and aiding. We have to be aware that each time we attack each other we let all of us down; not just our own reputation.

Towards the end of my mothers life she started to encourage me to look after myself first and my immediate family (and responsibilities). Perhaps she became worried about my hurtful experiences and she had learned to refocus through her own difficult experiences too. It seemed like as she got older her attitude had evolved too. She was always going to be that much older of course.

I am well aware that if you decide to ‘help’ someone you should always do so with the spirit and expectation of getting nothing back other than the knowledge that you have done some karmic good. And so I have always acted with this in mind. That’s not to say I expected anyone to ever act cruelly or I ungratefully in return.  But this is very much a possibility and one that we need to brace ourselves for. Sadly.

It is often true that those who need and deserve help the most are commonly those who struggle to ask for it. They are also the ones that tend to remember and treasure a kindness when it is done for them. They are worth every little thing done for them… And more.

The other question I have still to answer is ‘when is helping helpful or when is it just plain unhelpful and unwarranted?’

Perhaps there are many different answers to this. Perhaps I must learn them all for myself.

Many generations ago we relied on loyalty, support and cooperation for our very survival. Previously, our societies were a lot more ‘responsibility’ based in our thinking and governing whilst today people are more focused on their own ‘rights’ and individual needs. Perhaps help and assistance are viewed very differently now.

Remember the words of people like JFK who said “… Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country…”

Do we still have these attitudes? Do we still want to help our fellow man?

On a personal level, I must use my own experiences to understand how to act and react to people. To learn how best to use my time and efforts. To keep growing.

I still like to believe there are more ‘good’ people in the world than bad and that there is more good ‘in’ people than bad. I am lucky enough to have met quite a few people like this. They are true treasures in my life.

…And  finally maybe, just maybe, my dream of a unified, dignified, supportive and strong global community will be more than a dream and become closer to a reality. There are still many who deserve it. 😃

Gentle hugs,


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