Asking For Help

I would imagine many people have a reaction to this article just from reading the title. Asking for help. Anyone out there like doing that? For myself the phrase immediately brings up a combination of guilt surge, doubt in my ability to even do it, and irritation that it’s needed. And maybe most of all: the rueful and frustrated acknowledgement that asking for help works where often nothing else does. 

This evening I remembered with a sudden panic that I had to write this article before tomorrow morning. I looked around the toy-strewn room, the dirt dusted floor, at the kids beginning to whine for dinner, I leapt ahead to the gathering I was hosting tomorrow night and how I could not possibly get things as ready as I had hoped. I felt myself sliding into *justified* anger at my husband for not sharing my increasingly frantic feelings. And then I did something that is (for me) remarkable: 

I said to my husband: “Hey, once the kids are in bed can you vacuum while I write this article?” 

And his response: a smile and an easy, “ok.” 

Easy as that (in retrospect). 

The other day I was talking to my mom about life and what was feeling hard, and in a moment of brutal honesty I said that the feeling toward my husband was: “why aren’t you taking care of me in all the ways I haven’t asked?” And then we both burst out laughing, because it’s so silly, because it’s so true. 

It’s one thing to know I need help, to want it very desperately. But to actually ask for it? How weak. How vulnerable. And this goes for everything from help with household chores, to asking for a chance to talk, or a hug, a safe space to cry. In asking for help, I have to admit that I actually can’t do it on my own, and I have to give someone power over me. Power to reject, dismiss, overlook, misunderstand: power to hurt. I am quite happy to take help as my just due when it is offered. (And I then feel quite at liberty to critique it when it isn’t exactly what I hoped for). But when I actually ask for it–I then have to wait and be willing to receive what is given back. And that is scary. 

Recently my husband and I watched “The Call to Courage” by Brenè Brown on Netflix (a great couples activity by the way–it sparked a powerful conversation for us). One of her main points is that courage and vulnerability are not opposites, but inextricably tied together. Vulnerability is not a moment of weakness, a failing, but a choice to enter knowingly into a place of “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.” And this requires great courage. 

To me there are few things more vulnerable than admitting I haven’t got it all in hand, and that I need help from someone else. Knowing that it is really vulnerability that I fear doesn’t make asking for help any easier, but it reminds me that it’s hard for everyone. And it reminds me that, tempting as it is to believe, martyrdom is not the same as courage. Letting my guard down and letting someone in takes so much more courage than crashing on in silence. 

It’s pretty clear that when I do bring myself to ask for help, the results speak for themselves, as was so simply and perfectly demonstrated to me tonight. And yet despite the evidence, despite the success stories, I still fear it. The potential for rejection when we make ourselves vulnerable is potent. 

The hells want me to believe I can’t win: I don’t get what I need without asking, but asking is too great a risk of hurt and humiliation. While I was thinking about these ideas a line from Exodus kept popping into my head: “Little by little I will drive them out.” Ah yes, big changes take time. And AH, YES–the Lord is the one doing the work. Learning how to ask for help from others is ultimately all practice in learning how to ask for help from Him. 

“Hey, can you give me a new heart while I try to keep my temper with my children?”

And His response: a smile, and an easy, “ok.” 

“Little by little I will drive them out from before you until you have increased, and you inherit the land.”
Exodus 23:30

About Tania Alden

Tania is a wife, mother, artist, and South African American (in that order). Born in the USA she spent her formative years in Westville, South Africa, only returning to America to attend Bryn Athyn College. Tania and her husband Micah now live in Bryn Athyn with their small and delightful daughter. Tania loves to share memories and discussions, especially when they are centered on South Africa, parenting, art, the movie "Gladiator," and spiritual life.

5 thoughts on “Asking For Help

  1. I couldn’t stop smiling as I read this. Every single word resonated. Thank you for asking for help so you could write this article and share it with us. I needed it today.

    “And it reminds me that, tempting as it is to believe, martyrdom is not the same as courage. Letting my guard down and letting someone in takes so much more courage than crashing on in silence. ”

    Oof. I really needed to read that part in particular. Thank you!!!

  2. Thank you Tania. Its timely and important.
    When feeling badly about asking for help, try turning the question around, and asking yourself how you would answer if you were a friend asking for help. Of course you would offer to help if you could! There are probably lots of people who would love the opportunity to feel useful to you! I’ve learned a lot about treating myself as I would a friend.

    1. Yes Tania, you’re absolutely right. Gwenda is too – it’s a lesson I also have learned: people often hunger for the chance to feel useful. Admitting we need help gives them that chance. Win-win all around! I’m sure it helps to build friendships. “Love your neighbour as yourself.”

  3. Hmmmmm. But I don’t want to do “emotional exposure.” What if I just stay coiled up tight?
    Oh, and I still laughed when I read “Why aren’t you helping me in all the ways I haven’t asked?” I think I need it on a T shirt. Is this a woman thing? Expecting our men to read us and know what we want? I think it may be.

    Thanks for your (usual) and needed honesty! And your insights, too.

    I wish it was not so “little by little” for me.

    Love!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.