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  • Writer's pictureLianne van der Walt

The Gift of Giving - is in the Asking

Asking for help takes courage. A passing comment made by a good friend on social media reminded me of how easy it is to offer help but how hard it is to have to ask. Her comment, “It’s not that easy” stopped me in my tracks. Memories from a particular time in my own life re-surfaced, reminding me of how hard it had been to admit I could not do it on my own.

‘For it is in the giving that we receive…’ ~ Prayer of Saint Francis

What makes it so hard to reach out for help? Why would we rather battle on our own? There are many possible reasons – all totally justifiable given our circumstances.

  • We are raised to be strong, fiercely independent people

  • Vulnerability is not something any of us is comfortable with

  • Asking for help may be seen as relinquishing control over your own life

  • It takes physical and emotional energy to admit, “I can’t do this on my own”

  • We fear being judged as weak and incompetent

  • Don’t want to let anyone down by not being enough

  • There is always the possibility that our plea for help is ignored or rejected

  • Feelings of guilt, embarrassment and past humiliations could make us wary of being too open and trusting of others goodwill

  • The last thing we would want to be is a burden to someone else

  • Feeling indebted and not in a position to be able to return the favour

Regardless of the many reasons why we should not ask for help, there are just as many reasons why we should. Amanda Palmer in her book, The Art of Asking says that, “Asking is, at its core, a collaboration.” When we ask for help not from a place of shame or condescension, but rather from a place of gratitude and appreciation – we have the power to help one another as we share these gifts.

  • Asking for help creates an opportunity for others to feel good

  • Asking for help is the equivalent of giving a gift. We all want to help where we can, so give someone else the pleasure of helping you. How often do we hear, “I can’t ask for help – I’m the person who normally helps everyone else. I am not used to being on the receiving end, I am the strong one other people always rely on”

  • Our self-worth is directly related to our behaviour

  • When we help, endorphins (our body’s happy hormones) are secreted, flooding our brain and nervous system, making us feel happy and healthy

  • Helping makes us feel valued and appreciated

  • It is human nature to want to ease suffering

  • Helping strengthens our mutual connections, building strong and caring relationships

  • Good relationships form strong and healthy communities

  • Giving inspires further generosity and compassion

In Lessons from Geese, by Milton Olson, geese flying in formation teach us the benefit of accepting help. As each bird flaps its wings, an uplift is created for the bird following. As the lead goose at the top point of the V- formation tires, it rotates to the back of the formation, allowing it to ‘rest’ in the slipstream of the others and another bird moves forward into the lead position. The geese honk from behind to encourage those up front to maintain their position and speed. When a bird tires or is hurt, it drops out of the formation along with two others who stay with it till it recovers and can fly again. They will then join another formation or catch up with their original flock. This interdependence ensures the well-being of the flock. The geese teach us that accepting help and relying on one another is a natural and normal part of our existence.

Healthy relationships and strong connections are based on being able to give and receive with joy and gratitude.

‘Vulnerability is not weakness it is our greatest measure of courage’ ~ Brene Brown

What are some of the best ways to ask for help?

  • Explain your situation clearly. Insight and empathy are powerful motivators

  • We expect others to know what we are thinking, feeling and experiencing and when they don’t, we think they don’t care. In actual fact it’s just because they don’t know or don’t understand our exact circumstances

  • Be specific about what you need. Don’t make people guess

  • Never use guilt or emotional blackmail. No one wants to feel pressurized into having to help

  • Depending on what it is you need, ask the person most suited to help

  • If it makes it easier to accept help – offer something in exchange

  • Ask in person if possible - it is easier to be honest with each other

  • Be appreciative - gratitude is a powerful motivator

  • Be brave enough to be vulnerable

  • Be willing to surrender control over the outcome

Every one of us has been in a situation in our life when we have needed help. Wonderful opportunities are created when we allow ourselves to step out of our fear based Ego and into vulnerability and courage. Give someone else the joy of giving you what you are always so eager and willing to give others - the gift of giving.

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