The Harm of Not Asking For Help
The Harm of Not Asking For Help
The individual harm of not asking for help could be written about over thousands of series. In fact, many of the self-help books we reach for (especially women) explain this specifically. From struggles to martyrdom, we can conclude that not asking for help catalyzed significant damage to individuals.
I want to focus on a less addressed issue and that is the collective harm of not asking for help.
The Indigenous people that I have heard address this issue, including the Native and Cree individuals from territories in the Pacific Northwest, explain that in their culture, it is considered unfriendly not to ask for help. This is because there is a collective understanding that success of a community involves the collaboration of the community. One could not haul a long canoe without another. There is also understanding that collectively, we help one another. We cannot do much on our own.
As an over-polite female who grew up as the youngest child in a family and attended a private school and church, I learned quickly how to avoid getting in the way. I learned to be very polite with plenty of “thank-yous”, “I am sorrys”, and selfless service. While visiting India, a kind and gentle swami and friend noticed these patterns as he served us lunch and facilitated our journey through Rishikesh. He explained that in their culture, it is not necessary to say thank you, rather it is more important to hold an inner sense of gratitude and simply accept. I could not let go of thanking him, but I do now understand that fully embracing the gifts others are giving and really appreciating them is more powerful than the words “thank-you”. Gratitude is not just an outer expression, but an inner expression. He also expressed that a guest in the home is always seen as god and an opportunity to serve others is an opportunity to serve god (or the divine, the lord, buddha, whatever you choose to call the larger power). This means that it is an expectation to serve. It is just the way these people choose in their ways of virtuous living.
Perhaps with the growth of capitalism, collective service to one another as a normal way of being became a barrier to the dependency on the governments. If people become reliant on the state, or governments, it holds more power. With more power means greater ability to have control and profit off of the people. Over time with various interconnected and overlapping events including colonization, oppression of cultural practices, and consumerism, the interconnected ways of living were either scorched or dimmed to a light so subtle, many people could not see the existence. To this day, we still see remote communities and diverse populations as under-resourced, which in many ways is correct, and in other ways, the governments determine what “resources” are. Eventually, without buy-in from everyone and with the acknowledgement of such destruction over generations, we find these systems trying to strategize “stakeholder relationships” to get people of these richly interwoven cultures to contribute their insight to create policies for the very systems that originally suppressed their wisdom. Of course, there is no going back in time, but it is moments like these when we can reflect on people’s innate resilience and how it can be disrupted by extraneous circumstances in both the present, and historically.
It is also by reflecting on the systemic impacts on the resilience of people that we can better understand how to change. With this understanding, we can better support ourselves, our communities, our country, our global population, and the flora and fauna which hold us here.
If we avoid asking for help, where do we end up?
Well, if we project a little further in time, we will raise children and another generation that thinks they can’t ask for help. This means they will do everything on their own. They will learn alone, study alone, own businesses alone, likely live alone, or have non-harmonious relationships because couples need to rely on one another. They will also always be in competition with one another. This is apparent already in the “hustle” culture online of people trying to profit off of their friends. I often feel like having a deep conversation with a friend is on the cusp of being exploited by the coaching industry (friends please don’t charge me). What is even more scary is that by raising children alone, they don’t learn the power of community, collaboration, selfless service, and risk becoming self-centred and narcissistic. Perhaps we are already there, or will be after the pandemic.
We need to ask for help.
We need collaboration.
We need connection.
These are imperative to collective well-being and a sustainable future.
Today, ask for help from 3 different people. Here are some ideas:
- When carrying bags, ask a stranger if they are able to hold the door
- Ask your kids if they can help cook dinner
- Ask for help from your partner to split some chores
- Apply for a grant asking for help to fund a project
- Ask a neighbour of a family member to deliver groceries for that person