Yesterday I received an angry email from a reader that gave me pause for thought. The reader asked me to do something I wasn’t comfortable doing and I declined. The reader became frustrated and let me know in no uncertain terms. Their argument went something like this: Why was I presenting myself as someone helpful if I wasn’t willing to help them?
It wasn’t a terrible interaction — just a frustrated person venting — but it did get me thinking about what I’m trying to do here. This blog is subtitled “Systems for Living Well” and that’s mostly what it’s about. I share my own experiences, insights, and knowledge, and hope this blog benefits others. In the past I’ve framed that as “helping people.”
But I’m wondering if “helping” people often leads to dysfunction and codependence. How much responsibility should the “helper” take for the circumstances of the “helped”? Is there a danger of the person being helped surrendering their own power and agency to the helper?
“Helping people” has been a core value of mine since grade school. To reevaluate and possibly jettison this guiding principle is a big deal for me. It’s not that I want to become less altruistic or less giving (especially in relation to friends and family), but I think the old language doesn’t work anymore. I need to replace “helping” with more specific verbs, in both my thinking process and in terms of real life actions.
Some thoughts re: the future direction of this blog:
What I Want to Retain or Move Towards
- writing posts that educate, inspire, and/or entertain readers
- sharing personal experiences that might benefit others
- providing specific, clearly defined assistance to others when I am moved to do so, when it is mutually beneficial, or when I am being compensated
What I Want to Move Away From
- helping others out of a general sense of obligation, because I have a “helper” identity
- writing blog posts (or anything) that prescribe or recommend a particular course of action (“you should” or even “how to”)
- presenting myself as an expert or authority
- taking responsibility for other people’s actions or choices
I’m thinking out loud here. I don’t want to be less generous just because a few people feel overly entitled. I have no problem setting limits. Still, I may need to be clearer about what I’m offering, and where those limits are.
I hope you found this post educational, inspiring, or at least mildly entertaining!