The words came out of the blue.
“Thank you for saying ‘no’ and having me do that for myself,” she said. “I did it, and I’m proud of myself.”
She beamed with excitement at having faced a fear and mustering up the courage to do the task anyway.
This “thank you” came from the same person who had a major fit when I recently refused to do this task for her–one that was her responsibility and which she was capable of doing herself. She proclaimed at the time she was too afraid to do it.
At that moment I luxuriated in this prize–gratitude. I felt a deep satisfaction in knowing I had let this person grow a little more mature, a little more independent.
What hit me the hardest at that moment was how my “no” had not only set me free from false responsibility but had also set this loved one free from a false dependency–a belief that she could not accomplish this task–that she must call on me to complete it for her.
My weakness of saying “yes” too often had made her weaker.
I thought of how my not saying “no” often enough had hurt her self-esteeem. It pained me to realize I sometimes said “yes” out of pride believing she wasn’t as competent as me.
But then I thought, “How does a person become competent?” Certainly not by someone else doing things for them.
Once again–as I’ve seen many times in recent years–I saw that what I defined as helping was really hindering. When I think of this “hindering rather than helping” concept, I recall working on the orthopedic ward in an Illinois hospital years ago.
Often after surgery patients would want me to do all variety of tasks for them. But I was warned repeatedly by physical therapists, coworkers and charge nurses: “You have to let them do things for themselves. It’s the only way they’re going to become strong again.”
How tempted I was to believe their “I just can’t” protests. At times I was fooled into believing that giving in was being kind and that my coworkers were being harsh. But when I gave in I was hurting the patient and the nurse/patient relationship.
That’s what I’ve done too often in other relationships. Instead of helping others, I’ve hurt them. And I’ve hurt myself because when I’m in a helping/hindering relationship, it can never be the quality relationship God has in mind.
When I’m giving in to this wrong kind of help, I’m too often keeping people from seeking God for help. He, not me, is to be their refuge, strength, and help.
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1 NIV
Years ago a counselor told me that if I allow God to set me free, others would be set free in the process. In that “thank you” moment days ago, I realized how true that is.
Are you ready to be set free from this hindering kind of help? Are you ready to believe that two people will be set free in the process?