May I Help?

May I Help?

“… If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.”
~Emily Dickinson

I love to be helpful. My desire to help people is what got me into aromatherapy and later Reiki [healing work]. The book I’m writing now is a method of helping people but recently I’ve begun to wonder about the value of offering help.

Maybe it’s not helpful.

When we offer help to someone in the form of advice or direction, we’re giving them the message that we don’t have confidence in their ability to handle the situation on their own. We aren’t saying it, but that’s what our offer implies. Often this backfires in a not-so-pretty way. In Reiki we are taught that we should never violate a person’s free will; we never give Reiki energy without permission. Psychologists and  psychiatrists know they can’t help someone who does not come of their own volition. They have to want help and they have to want it from you, if you’re going to be effective in helping.

So what do you do when you see someone suffering but they haven’t asked you for help? How do you hold yourself back from reaching into another person’s life and telling them what you think they should do? Should you hold back or should you offer to help?

A very wise person once told me that the reason my desire to help others was so strong was because I projected my own pain onto them. It’s hard to be with someone in their pain, she said. Was she right? I couldn’t help but wonder, now, about my motives: did I want to help people because I wanted to alleviate their suffering – or mine?

In my life, I’ve come to three ways of dealing with a situation where I see someone who needs help. Recently, thanks to Stacey’s introduction of Bernardo I’ve added a fourth:

  1. I let them know I’m here if they need me, willing to help; be present.
  2. I offer a prayer or Reiki, in spirit.
  3. I offer the situation up to God and quietly wish them well.
  4. I try to be of service in another way, perhaps without their knowing.

What are your thoughts? Is offering help helpful, or insulting? Should we wait to be asked for help or dive right in? What do you do?

photo credit: chidorian

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About The Author


I am passionate about writing and community building. I’ve written a book about healing and happiness, The Happy Place, as well as a Community Building book, Sounding the Drum: Community Building in the Digital Age, now available at any Amazon store. I’ve been through life changes that I thought were the end of my world, but I’m still here. I never know what will happen next. Isn’t that what makes life interesting?