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A Manifesto: I’m Not Going to Help You If…

I’m writing this blog to myself. You’re welcome to read it and to use any part of it you may find useful. I have to write this down because I need some boundaries. I like helping people, but I keep making the same mistakes about who to help and how I help. Hence, this manifesto.

Some, maybe most people already know what I’m just now discovering about helping others.  For me, these are lessons learned in the school of hard knocks. I’ve actually known some of these findings for a long time, but I’ve refused to accept them. I did not want to feel jaded or to close myself off because of the actions of a few. That made me an easy target in the past.

With my manifesto, I’m aiming to redirect the help I give others in a way that is more meaningful and gratifying. More meaningful to others because they will take the help instead of taking advantage of it (and of me). More gratifying to me because I will have made a difference instead of merely making a contribution toward continued dependence and an ongoing need for more help.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been burned several times. In each case, I sort of knew in advance that I would regret my decision to help. I need to listen to that inner voice better if I am to be successful in living up to my new rules regarding who to help. That is the reason rule number one is my starting point.

Rule #1 – I will be more discerning about who to help, how I help and how much I help others. I will not make “in the moment” decisions about helping people.

Rule #2 – I will no longer help people who do not take clear and consistent steps to help themselves. I use this guideline with my grown children, and I will use it with others, too. With my children, my short -term denial is an investment in their long-term independence.

Rule #3 – I will not help you if I need to help myself.  I can’t be over-extended and put my own needs on the back burner forever. As selfish as this may seem to others and/or as selfish as this may feel to me, I need to say “no” when there is no time, no space, no rest and no restoration in my own life.

Rule #4 – I will not help you if you are ungrateful or act as if you are entitled to my help. I don’t expect or want public recognition or accolades. But a simple heartfelt “thank you” goes a long way.

Rule #5 – I will not care about you and your situation more than you do. It’s incredibly draining to invest emotionally in others’ problems and trials. I’m prone to over-empathizing and the weight of others’ pain can really drag me down. I can’t let that happen to me, especially if you are detached from your own situation.

Rule #6 – I will not help you if you are not going to help others. If your attitude is to take without giving, there’s little chance of a “butterfly effect” from helping you. I’ll invest in someone with a different outlook, someone who understands we all have something to give and who wants to use their talents to help others, too.

Rule #7 – I will not help you if your intention is to harm someone else, compete with someone else or take from someone else. We’re all struggling in this world, and there’s no good that comes from those endeavors. I don’t want to be a part of it.

Whew. Laying out the rules for who to help is the easy part. Living by them is going to be a little more challenging. I may need a little help to stick to this plan!

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