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The Risk of Asking for Help and How to Do It Wisely

asking for help

Is there really a risk in asking for help? Recently, I asked a question on Instagram: “Why is it hard for you to ask for help?” I couldn’t believe the number of responses I received, so I copied them into a document and categorized them. Here are some of the main categories that surfaced:

Fear

  • I don’t want to feel like a burden.
  • I might be rejected.
  • What if no one gets it? What if no one knows how to help me?
  • I fear it will be used against me as leverage.

Guilt

  • I feel bad asking, because other people’s problems are bigger than mine.
  • I’m used to helping others. How can I ask them to help me?
  • People see me as strong. I don’t want to let them down.

Shame

  • I feel like I need to wear a mask to look good like others.
  • I don’t want to be judged
  • I’ll be seen as weak or a failure.
  • I was taught I wasn’t worthy of love. How can I believe someone will help me now?

I read your responses and also thought about the stories I hear every day. Many of you are struggling to pay the bills while single parenting; others are dealing with painful dynamics with abuse no one seems to understand. Some of you feel isolated and alone within church communities. I also hear stories from those of you so used to being depended on as “strong” that asking for help would launch a sort of identity crisis. Your narrative goes like this, “If I drop one ball, they’ll all come falling down. I just have to keep juggling them all.”

I get it.

When we say to someone, “I need your help,” we make ourselves vulnerable.

And, vulnerability comes with risk. I can’t tell you that you won’t get hurt if you decide to reach out for help. You might. But I can tell you it’s worth the risk, and you can learn to do it wisely.

For every friend who gives you a pat answer or tells you to pray more, there’s someone who will listen with compassion.

For every pastor who tells you that you have no reason to feel lonely or on the margins of your church, there’s another one who will say, “I get it. I want to help.”

For every family member who blames you for your divorce or your financial predicament, there’s a counselor, friend, or neighbor who will say, “I see your pain and how hard you’re trying. I’m with you in this.”

People can hurt you when you make yourself vulnerable in a time of need. But, please hear me say: DO NOT GIVE UP. From my vantage point as a counselor, I can tell you—for every person who minimizes your pain, there is someone who will get it.

There is someone who will listen, who will enter into your pain with love and compassion, and who will help you with practical care.

For every horrible example of “help” I’ve seen offered to suffering people, I’ve seen angels show up, in multitudes. Here are some real-life examples:

—a companion shows up just when you were ready to give up on love.

—a new boss comes in who gets you and helps you rebuild your career brick-by-brick.

—an acquaintance or neighbor emerges as an unlikely but steady, loyal rock.

—a support group or church community helps connect you to just the right resource.

—a counselor you turn to really and truly sees you.

I could go on and on. For every risk there is in asking for help, there is out there some reward. I witness a lot of pain in my work, but I ALSO witness the beautiful handiwork of angels showing up in unexpected ways. I couldn’t do this work if I didn’t.

Asking for help is vulnerable. And you should be cautious in how you seek it. You don’t want to expose your vulnerabilities to those who will exploit them. Jesus called it casting your pearls before swine (Matthew 7:6).

But, if you’ve bumped up against some swine, don’t let it make you bitter or discouraged.  Instead, get wise, build up your courage, and try again. Read here for tips on how to set up a support system of trusted advisers.

How have angels shown up for you?

This article originally appeared here.

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Alison Cook, PhD is a counselor, speaker, and the co-author of How to Turn Your Overwhelming Thoughts and Feelings into Your Greatest Allies. For over 20 years, Alison has helped women, ministry leaders, couples, and families learn how to heal painful emotions, develop confidence from the inside out, forge healthy relationships, and fully live out their God-given potential.