“I lift up my eyes to the hills – from where will my help come?” (Psalm 121) This line from the Bible has always made me think of the cavalry swooping down over a ridge in some old western movie, bugles blaring and standards waving.
“My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth,” is the response the Psalm gives us. No word on the cavalry.
One of my biggest problems with “self-help” is the reliance on the word “self”. There’s one big “should” there – we should pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps, forge our own path, fly solo, hoe our own row and, as Fleetwood Mac so succinctly put it, “go our own way.” It’s as if asking for help is revealing a giant weakness.
What’s the benefit of flying solo? Control, yes. And self-determination. Another good one: you don’t have to share your toys. When you are on your own no one else’s opinion matters… no one can tell you you’re wrong. No one can hurt you by rejecting your ideas.
Flying solo is a way of protecting yourself. Or, in the words of another pop song, “I am a rock, I am an island. I’ve built walls, A fortress deep and mighty that none may penetrate. I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain. It’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain. I am a rock, I am an island.” (See? All those afternoons singing into my hairbrush have really paid off. And to think my parents worried about my future!)
I have seen so many women stop asking their husbands for help, especially when they have decided to step back from careers to focus on parenting. It’s as if these women feel they have to justify their decision by doing everything themselves. As a result, they feel lonely, overwhelmed, stressed out and alienated from their spouse. They have created a situation where they cannot ask for exactly what they need – help. And marriages suffer.
Gary Zukav wrote a challenging little book called The Seat of the Soul. Parts of the book are what my late cousin Libby would have called “woo-woo”, but his definition of relationship is right on: “individuals joined in equality for the purpose of spiritual growth.” What a marvelous way to phrase it.
If I am your friend, or your spouse, I am an individual committed to your spiritual growth. I truly want the best for you. I want you to grow. I want you to evolve, regardless of what that means for me.
However. The equals thing and the pursuit of growth thing may not be what you’ve got going on. If that’s the case, maybe the reason you two don’t ask for help is because you really don’t want growth. Deep inside you think that if you grow you might change or your partner might change. They might not like you. You may not like them. You might leave. Or they might. That’s scary. So you don’t ask for help because you don’t want to be abandoned. You’re afraid that asking for help will reveal flaws in your relationship that may be too big to handle, so you don’t ask. Sound at all familiar?
Let me tell you this: very few relationships are beyond repair — especially if both of you want a more vibrant, loving connection. It is possible to shift away from fear and toward something more — but you may need help to get there.
All you need to do is ask.
If you and I were in the equals-in-pursuit-of-growth kind of relationship/ friendship Gary Zukav describes, I want you to ask me for help. Not so I have a chit I can hold over your head for the rest of your stinkin’ life – but so I can help you, maybe in some small way, pursue your own personal growth.
But, if you want to know the truth, when I help you the real recipient of growth is… me. When I help you, I step out of my self-centered, narcissistic cocoon and focus externally. When I pack boxes with you, or help you with the dishes, or refer you business, or help you finally figure out your relationship with your mother, I put your needs before my own. And that is a great gift you give me. By asking for my help, you allow me to see a bigger world than I usually experience.
Zukav’s book also talks about angels, teachers and guides. This is the place he goes a little more woo-woo.
But when you think about it, it’s not so far out there.
Think about the time you had a baby on one hip, a toddler by the hand, three stuffed shopping bags and a stroller that needed folding before you got on the escalator during the Christmas shopping rush. Who stepped in and helped? Did you say, “Thank you, you’re an angel!” to that guy? You sure could have. How about the woman in your first job who talked with you about suits, pantyhose and office politics? What did she teach you? And the fellow who stopped in the rain and changed your tire? Did he guide you to a moment when you were grateful and humble?
When the Psalm says, “From where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth” — remember that each of the examples above are human beings, just like you and me. If humans were indeed made in the divine image, then we all carry a spark of divinity within. You’ve got the spark, I’ve got the spark, he’s got it, she’s got it. Everybody’s got it.
And your help? It comes directly from the divine spark within others.
So it’s OK to ask for help. Think of it this way: you’re doing everyone a favor! You’re appealing to our highest self, and allowing us to grow, and to touch the divine within.
Which is the essence of love. And the opposite of fear.
And not at all weak.