Recently, a group meeting on my job was interrupted by a friendly, relaxed chat. Debra commented positively on the care I was giving to one of our patients. As a teaching moment, she asked me what motivated me to go the extra mile. Without thinking much about it, I responded, “I really love to help people, I guess that’s why.” I must confess, I really didn’t want to talk about myself. I wanted us to move on from that subject.Helping People Vs Helping People Help Themselves

Lisa matter-of-factly quickly interjected, “No, you like to help people help themselves.

I paused and thought about it and affirmed, “You know Lisa, you are right. I want to help people help themselves.”

At that time, a fresh reawakening came over me as I thought about what I valued in that area of life. I’m really passionate, not so much about helping people by doing things for them but, about inspiring and empowering people to do things for themselves.

I must say, up to this day, I still don’t understand how Lisa could quickly perceive what was deep inside my soul when even I casually overlooked it in the moment. Perhaps I did so out of convenience.

What do you think about helping do things for people vs helping them do things for themselves?

Obviously, there is a time to do things for people when they are, for example, sick and can’t help themselves. When a catastrophe like an earthquake or Sunami hits a place,  people need for us to do things for them to help them because they can’t. But after that relief must come rehabilitation and finally development. During rehabilitation, the people have gotten out of relief and can do things for themselves. During development, people must take the lead and engineer their own future.

I love to help people help themselves. Instead of spending ten minutes of my time to pull someone out of a hole, I prefer to spend 10 days of my time inspiring, empowering, and supporting them to get out of that hole by themselves. When people get out of the hole by themselves, their self-esteem is built, they learn to creatively solve their own problems and are prepared for a future where they take care of themselves without waiting for a handout or a savior.  I prefer to help people shape their own destinies than try in vain to shape their destinies for them.

Helping people help themselves is harder than helping do things for people. Yet, I think it’s the best way to help people in the long run.