Trying to Help Those Who Don’t Want Help

A Brief Discourse on Helping

People who have a heart for people desire to help them. Yet, people you care about are not always receptive to your help. What do you do then? When it comes to helping others, it takes two to tango.

Seeking help is scary and sometimes difficult. To admit you have a problem along with the prospect of personal change often keeps you from seeking help. You’re blinded by shame, pride, fear, and anger. Therefore, you can’t clearly see reality or your true self.

There’s the story of the two young fish swimming along. They happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “Morning boys! How’s the water?” The two young fish swim on for a bit. Eventually one of them looks over at the other and says, “What the hell is water?”

The truth can be right in front of us but we can’t – or choose not to – see it. It’s easy to become blinded to the realities of who we are and what’s around us – like the fish clueless about the water.

Help means someone “invades” our private space challenging us to rearrange some things, get rid of the junk, clean out our closets, and stop messing up our lives.

It’s easy to see how seeking help is rarely easy.

Offering Help

According to my 10 pound New Oxford American Dictionary, “help” means to: 1) “make it easier for (someone) to do something by offering one’s services or financial or material aid; improve (a situation or problem); be of benefit to; assist (someone) to move in a specified direction; assist someone to put on or take off (a garment); relieve the symptoms of (an ailment); 2) to serve someone with (food or drink); to take something without permission; 3) an appeal for urgent assistance

Basically help is assistance. We don’t like to see people in pain. We have resources they need. We offer the resources.

Unfortunately, this kind of assistance may be unwelcome, unappreciated, faulty, or misunderstood,

It Takes Two to Tango 

First, there’s the “help-er” who seeks to ease someone in a difficulty PLUS the “help-ee” who receives the help and benefits from the help.

Help is a two-person dance. Sure, you can try to help yourself on your own, but rarely with any level of success. You’ll keep tripping over your own clumsy feet. The best way to help yourself is to accept the beneficial help from others who have insight and experience related to your situation.

What do you do, then, when your help is not wanted? Here are five suggestions:

1. Press forward anyway no matter the consequences. Force your help on them. This reminds me of an intervention. I’ve only heard stories of this method’s success. The few times I’ve been involved in something like this, it failed. The human will plays a significant part in change. As Benjamin Franklin taught: “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.”

2. Pull back and find another way to persuade. When done with genuine sensitivity, love and kindness, this method is effective.

An Aesop’s fable illustrates:

The Wind and the Sun were disputing which was the stronger. Suddenly they saw a traveller coming down the road, and the Sun said: “I see a way to decide our dispute. Whichever of us can cause that traveller to take off his cloak shall be regarded as the stronger You begin.” So the Sun retired behind a cloud, and the Wind began to blow as hard as it could upon the traveller. But the harder he blew the more closely did the traveller wrap his cloak round him, till at last the Wind had to give up in despair. Then the Sun came out and shone in all his glory upon the traveller, who soon found it too hot to walk with his cloak on.

“Kindness effects more than severity.”

However, there are human beings that will use this method to manipulate people. Instead of a direct assault, they’ve learned the art of “putting on airs,” treating people nicely, so they can get their way.

Real help doesn’t manipulate people. Discover options that will make a difference.

3. Wash your hands of it. You care for the person by letting them carry on blinded by their own insanity. This seems to be what the father of the prodigal son did. It’s what God does to some of his creatures driven by sin. It seems a crazy way to love. But we’re not God.

There are some people whom you cannot rescue. It’s a hard reality to admit. You cannot help every individual no matter how much you try.

4. Pray for God to help while waiting to participate (or not) in that help. As a Christian, this is a great option. Commit the person to God’s mercy constantly. Then, seek God wholeheartedly as you wait on Him to direct your desire to help.

5. Most importantly, be an example of a person being transformed by the mercy and grace of God. The trouble this person is having may be God’s way of changing YOU and your ability to love others. Your ability to help flows from who you are.

Insight from the Psalmist

Read how God helps those in need:

Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob; whose hope is in the Lord his God….The Lord sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the sojourners; He upholds the widow and the fatherless; but the way of the wicked He brings to ruin. (Psalm 146.5-9)

  • The person who looks to God for help will usually be open to receive help from others. He/She has some idea of God’s ability to assist.
  • The person who doesn’t trust God for help may struggle with trusting others who offer help. That kind of person may find God assisting them to ruin.
  • With God there is always hope and help. Yet, we are responsible to learn to trust Him and His help. We can just as easily  rely on ourselves.

Insight from Psychology 

Victoria Maxwell who writes on the Psychology Today site, reminds us of these steps in helping those who don’t want help:

  1. Remember the journey to accept there is a problem to deal with is theirs alone. We can offer genuine help and listen with an open and compassionate heart. But, we are not responsible for their health and happiness. Let go.
  2. Ask your loved one to humor you and go to see someone who can help. Offer to go together.
  3. Build trust and rapport. If your trying to help creates more frustration and anger, do not get frustrated or angry in return. This is easier said than done. Do your best to keep communication open no matter how difficult it becomes.
  4. Evaluate whether you are really the best person to talk to your loved one right now. This may really be true of parents toward their adult children. Another person who is wise and loves people, may be the better option to meet their need.

When Help may not Helpful

  • When help is given only to correct a perceived wrong. Care for the individual is not important. The only issue is fixing the problem.
  • When help comes from a less-than-credible person or someone not respected; an unreliable source. Of course, the one needing help determines this. If they want to dismiss a person as untrustworthy, then they’ll miss the help they need.
  • When help comes from a haughty, proud person. This person may be more interested in looking good than actually helping.
  • When help creates more problems. For example, the person becomes even more dependent on the aid of others.

Making it Personal 

A major frustration of ministry is directing our desire to help people towards those who don’t see their need for help. People who are complacent or self-satisfied, don’t see their need for help. Unfortunately, this describes most people who sit in church pews Sunday after Sunday.

It also describes most church and ministry leaders. Their problem is more ego-related than complacency. Their expertise, training, position, or charisma exempt them from needing assistance. This is a dangerous place to be.

Though life always includes a good dose of struggle (it’s designed that way), we make it more difficult on ourselves when we try to go it alone. Truth is, we don’t have what it takes to make life “work.” We need help.

Also recognize that help is available to you. Ask God for help and see where that takes you. Wisely receive the help that’s offered and be open to benefit from it.

Lastly, become a person who genuinely helps others in kindness and love. Draw close to the Helper of us all and learn from Him. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all know what help is and how to do it. Follow their lead and heart.

Share a story of help below or share something you’re taking away from this post. 

Dr. K