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Help?

handsWith four children to parent while serving in an inner-city Spanish branch, Jenny Pocock (alias jendoop) hardly has time for gardening, reading, blogging, painting, and ignoring housework. She’s always up for something new, as proven by moving with her family from Utah, to Indiana, to Colorado, to Pennsylvania. In this spirit of adventure she’s earning her degree from BYU’s BGS program with her eye on becoming a psychologist, while being a stay at home mom. Her husband is the mix too, he’s really the one that keeps her on track. And he says she can’t skydive. Read more of her current adventures here.

Before we begin, let’s all say a silent prayer for my children and their future therapists. I promised myself that I would never post something personal about them – but here I am, doing just that. It is justified… I think.

My 14-year-old daughter had problems in her math class a few months ago. After talking it over we came to the heart of the matter; she didn’t understand a concept when it was explained in class and wouldn’t ask for outside help. This was especially troubling to my husband, who works in a career that is all about math. The man has been waiting years to share any of his useless- I mean, amazing math knowledge with his children. Now there was an opportunity and his daughter was depriving him of it.

To solve our daughter’s problem, we explained the many resources available to her and she promised to avail herself of them the next time she had some confusion.

A few months went by, fine and dandy, until we got a midterm notice in the mail. Yes, it was math again. Frustratingly enough, as we spoke to her, it was the same issue. She had a concept that eluded her but she didn’t ask for help. This time we felt we had to make the concept, of asking for help, stick by providing consequences.

This struck me as strange when I thought about it later that night. Consequences for NOT asking for help? Was I punishing my child for practicing self-reliance?

We seem to be taught at every turn in the church about self-reliance. Elder Marion G. Romney said, “Man cannot be an agent unto himself if he is not self-reliant. Herein we see that independence and self-reliance are critical keys to our spiritual growth. Whenever we get into a situation which threatens our self-reliance, we will find our freedom threatened as well. If we increase our dependence, we will find an immediate decrease in our freedom to act.”

Just days after this last incident with my oldest daughter, my younger daughter, through tears and pain, admitted to me that she had forged my signature on a test that required a parent’s signature. (Getting a parent’s signature is usual procedure, the test did not have a bad score.) She explained to me that she was just trying to get it done quickly and I had been out of town the night she needed the signature. It became a sweet golden moment as I taught her about repentance, but again, left me asking the question about self-reliance.

When something like this crops up in the lives of my children I begin to look at myself, I being their largest example (being a stay-at-home mom, they are just around me the most). And sure enough, I found an example of being self-reliant, to a fault, in my own life.

Two years ago I gave birth to my fourth child. Since then my health has not been the same. No doctor, specialists included, has been able to definitively diagnose what ails me. While I struggle with this trial many people have made the usual statement heard in wards across the world, of, “Let me know what I can do to help.”

I have only once taken someone up on it. That is ridiculous.

Just like my husband is aching to use his skills to help my daughter excel in school I know there are many around me who love me and sincerely want to do something to help. But I have deprived them of the opportunity in the name of self-reliance.

Are we missing something when we don’t ask for help? Can you really be self-reliant to a fault or am I just taking up my cross and bearing it? Tell me of a time when you laid down your burden – was it a sacrifice of your self-reliance or only blessings? Where does our reliance on Christ fit into all of this?

27 thoughts on “Help?”

  1. I absolutely think we are missing something when we don't ask for help. But I've also been guilty of it too often. Strangely enough, moving to a foreign country and living there for five years was so humbling to me, learning to rely upon the generosity of friends and strangers. When we moved back to the U.S., I've found myself abandoning those sacred lessons and forging on in my pride and self-reliance. And there are consequences: people aren't given the opportunity to serve and my family and I have suffered longer than we actually had to.

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  2. There is a difference between self reliance, and learning how to do something. Your daughter would still be self reliant if she asked someone to help her learn how to do her math, and then completed her assignment herself with her knowledge. She would be non-self reliant if she had someone do all her homework for her.

    Remember the much used adage: Give a man a fish, feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime. (or however it goes.)

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  3. I do not see that judging the actions of a child and judging your actions as an adult as the same. As an instructor for 16 years, I ran into similar problems on a regular basis. A child's job is to go to school and learn. We do not do education by self-reliance, it is in a classroom with people that know more than we do. So asking for help is not "dependancey" it is part of the process to become self-reliant. When I don't ask for help, then I am not doing the work, I am not following the rules of education and fulfilling my job. So the consequences are not for self reliance, but for not working. In the learning process and as children we do not know the best actions, that is why we have parents and go to school.
    Your situation could be considered over reliance, but if you are still able to do your job as wife, mother, worker, than I don't know. But the difference is you are an adult and can make these decisions, and if not, can see the consequences and make a new decision. And because you are an adult, you can help your daughter make her decisions.

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  4. These are such great thoughts, most of them never occured to me. I love to see your perspective, keep them coming!

    (Isn't blogging such a wonderful medium?)

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  5. You can definitely be "self-reliant" (although I liked HeidiAnn calling it pride) to a fault. Not asking others for help can be likened to not asking God for help. And not asking Him for help means to a degree that we can do this whole salvation and exaltation thing by ourself and don't need the Atonement. Which is just crazy talk.

    Now, to go figure out how to humble myself before life finds another opportunity to do it for me. 🙂

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  6. I agree, the self-reliance you're talking about is pride in disguise. For every person that offers to help just to check it off a list, there are twice as many who sincerely want to help–we know that, right? I don't understand why we don't take people up on their genuine offers; especially because we feel so dang good when they take us up on ours. Pride, I guess.
    Thanks for getting the thoughts churning.

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  7. I loved this! Especially the prayer for future therapies. Amen. 🙂

    For me, it's sometimes scary to communicate a need–depending on the person. Or sometimes I expect them (anyone–the whole world!)to read my mind (I mean if they REALLY love me wouldn't they just KNOW? Yes the ridiculous movie/romantic in me rears her dramatic head). Actually admitting "I need help" is vulnerable and an emotionally naked place to be–but I have never done it without the other person immediately stepping up to the plate. So what am I afraid of really?

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  8. I always ask for help. I just think of it as letting people find joy in service.

    As for your daughter, I think consequences are the best teacher. Bad grades are more effective than a crabby, nagging mother.

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  9. I really think that it is a matter of balance. Of course it is a wonderful thing to be be self-reliant. It always makes me feel good about myself when I am able to learn and complete a task on my own. But I think that there is a point where one must swallow pride (as others have mentioned) and realize that you have done what you should reasonably do yourself and it is time to ask for help. For instance, you daughter should have studied the math concept on her own, attemped to work out some problems pertaining to that concept and then upon finding that she still didn't understand it, she should have asked for help. And in your situation, after finding yourself doing what you reasonably can in your roll as SAHM and then feeling yourself overwhelmed, it is time to ask for help from the people around you who love you and sincerely want to serve you. Like others have mentioned, that is a really hard thing to do, to admit to yourself and others that you are not superwoman and need a little help. But once you do, you will be a much happier, more balanced person.

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  10. "I agree, the self-reliance you’re talking about is pride in disguise. For every person that offers to help just to check it off a list, there are twice as many who sincerely want to help–we know that, right? I don’t understand why we don’t take people up on their genuine offers; especially because we feel so dang good when they take us up on ours. Pride, I guess."

    I think she just called me prideful. And it is accurate. I do feel great when I help someone else, but in the rare times when I have been on the receiving end, I have mostly felt weak and exposed and like a failure after. I'm sure I need therapy for that one. But since my mom NEVER asked for help for anything, at least I can blame her. LOL

    I have these same issues with the Atonement too. Where is the line between works and grace? When have I made an acceptable offering? Where does He take over?

    Just some quick thoughts…great topic that I will continue to mull over.

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  11. I think that sometimes, at least for me personally, I don't ask for help when needed because of prior bad experiences. Generally, it is very difficult for me to ask for help. I know that it is pride: I don't want to be a drain on anyone or appear that I don't have it all together (does anyone truly?) But there have been times when I have asked for help and have been told I am asking too much, that I am asking amiss. Or I don't ask for help because it seems more important for people to have confidence in my (feigned) togetherness in order to be able to ask for their own help of my husband, the bishop. That last logic I get directly from my parents, as they used it as a reason not to tell their ward members when my dad lost his job while he was the bishop. They feared that if it was known that they were struggling, but holding it together, that people would not seek help when needed so as not to further burden the bishop. I don't know if that logic truly holds up under scrutiny, but I haven't wanted to risk being the reason someone else failed to seek help they needed.
    When I am able to accept help, I am learning to see that help as heaven sent: angels moving mortal hands to bless me as the Lord would if He were here. That outlook is helping me to feel love instead of visible failure. But it is a process, a learning process.

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  12. I recently had a priesthood leader remind me gently that sometimes it's important to ask for help. People can't always know how to help if we don't open up and ask.

    After receiving this counsel, I made some deliberate efforts to do that, and my life was blessed, and my heart was knit together with those who served me.

    One of the parts of that talk by Pres. Romney that I really loved was this:

    "There is an interdependence between those who have and those who have not. The process of giving exalts the poor and humbles the rich. In the process, both are sanctified. The poor, released from the bondage and limitations of poverty, are enabled as free men to rise to their full potential, both temporally and spiritually. The rich, by imparting of their surplus, participate in the eternal principle of giving. Once a person has been made whole, or self-reliant, he reaches out to aid others, and the cycle repeats itself. [of course, 'poor' and 'rich' can mean different things, not just related to money.']

    "We are all self-reliant in some areas and dependent in others. Therefore, each of us should strive to help others in areas where we have strengths. At the same time, pride should not prevent us from graciously accepting the helping hand of another when we have a real need. To do so denies another person the opportunity to participate in a sanctifying experience."

    I agree that this is all about balance (pretty much like so much of life).

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  13. Really what I struggle with is where the line is. I can do it all by myself, but the kids will watch alot more TV, they won't eat the most nutritional food, my oldest daughter will babysit alot, and there is a crabby woman passed out on the couch(me). So where does this cross the line over into 'I need help' territory? When do my challenges reach the boiling point of requiring a plead for help?

    Angie, I agree with you, sometimes you feel that others won't depend on you if they think you are struggling and you loose the blessings of service. This did happen to me, I had a temple recommend interview where I honestly shared my struggles. My husband was released from the branch presidency two weeks later, with no interview. I feel guilty and my family is left out of service opportunities because I was honest about my struggles, it is isolating (not once in the interview did I ask for help or plead for DH's release). Couldn't we have received compassionate service and my husband retain his calling instead?

    Yes, there is an element of pride. I think humility is one of the things I am supposed to learn from this illness. It does effect my relationship with the Savior. Too often I want to show him I can do it on my own. It is completely against the concept of the atonement but I continue to struggle with it.

    My daughter can be blase about bad grades, we have to attach another level of consequences to make her care. I have to give her credit- this week she had final exams and asked me to help with English (adverb dependant clauses anyone?) and my husband helped with math. You gotta celebrate the small victories!

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  14. Boy! So much to consider here. I find that struggling to listen to the promptings of the spirit when there is a "line" is so helpful. I WANT to know the answers, and the greatest teacher of all is waiting to give them to me. I have experienced some similar struggles in our home, and find that I need to do more quiet listening and rely less on my own knowledge and instinct as the mother bear and act on the quiet promptings I receive when I am humble and desire to know how best to handle any situation.

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  15. M&M–can we get a date & title on that Pres. Romney talk, please? It sounds amazing. Thanks!
    See? See? I'm asking for help…:)

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  16. Reading the comments made me think of something else. The interdependence – We are not to be so self-reliant, God helps those who help themselves, is not in the Bible. We are to be community and family and family depends on each other. And "I can do all things thru Christ who strengthens me – Phillipians 4:13. Not much about ourselves, our self reliance – how about church and family reliance from the world?
    Again, thank you for making me think!

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  17. Thanks for a fantastic post Jen.

    I love receiving help. My mom is dying of cancer right now and my ward has been bringing meals in while I fly back and forth from San Diego to Salt Lake City.

    My hubby could certainly handle dinners, and even my teenagers can cook, but these tangible meals of love help me feel the love of my neighbors and the tender mercies of GOd.

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  18. Last time my VT (also my RS president) came over, she commented that by turning down offers of help when you need it, you deprive the would-be helper of the blessings that come from service. Worth considering?

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  19. I like the idea of interdependence. I'm actually sitting in a motel right now (should be in bed) because we're in the middle of moving. We've moved a number of times before but never accepted offered help from ward members. Today I finally let people come in and clean my house and I was so glad I did. Not only did my apartment get cleaner faster, but it was nice to have an hour to spend with a few other women from my ward all working together. It ended up being a nice little break in the middle of an otherwise stressful day. So I think that we need to remember that service is not just a chance to provide tangible things, but a way to build relationships with others and to strengthen our bonds as ward members.

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  20. The talk by Pres. Romney can be found here

    love that last thought, Foxyj — service can build relationships and bring us together. The phrase that comes to mind for me is knitting our hearts together. I also think that if we all always pretended that all was always well, we'd probably not really get to know each other very well, and what of mourning w/ each other and empathy and all of that? I think it's often when we are willing to risk and be vulnerable when we can really come to know each other and not feel so alone in our struggles.

    Still hard to find lines, because you can't just go share with anyone and everyone. And you don't want negative fallout from your sharing (as Angie's situation and others' have shown can happen.)

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  21. So many questions swirling in my head as I read this post & comments…

    Echoing Jenny's comment, how can we know when we're truly at a breaking point, and not just shrinking back from a challenge that needs just a little more effort on our part?

    How do we distinguish wanting help vs. needing help? Is there really a difference between the two?

    Jenny, you say you've passed on offers to help you. What would you ask for?

    What would help someone suffering from depression? Can we truly offer assistance without judging her in one way or another?

    How persistent should we be if we're turned down by someone we deem as needing service?

    On the same note, how should we deal with exceedingly pushy people who offer [unwanted] help?

    Lots of jumbled thoughts as this hits close to home. No one wants to be a project, and that's not a matter of pride imo. It's like the difference between visiting teaching for the numbers or for the sisters–in the long run, the lack of love will overshadow any good done.

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  22. Echoing Jenny’s comment, how can we know when we’re truly at a breaking point, and not just shrinking back from a challenge that needs just a little more effort on our part?

    So, my thought in return is this — do we always need to be at a breaking point to ask for help?

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  23. I hope I'm not beating a dead horse here, I haven't had a moment to read all the comments!

    We cannot make ourselves our own Gods, we absolutely must rely on the Lord. The idea that we can do all things on our own is arrogant of us (I do it all the time, though!)

    But there is a fine line to be walked between relying on the Lord in all things, and asking the Lord what breakfast cereal to eat before you'll make a choice. We are commanded to be strong and use our intellect, but it is in the attitude of understanding that all knowledge and understanding comes from the Lord.

    I'm just like you, though. It's very difficult for me to ask for help. Yet I don't see it as a deficiency when someone asks me for help. I've got to get over it somehow…

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  24. So, my thought in return is this — do we always need to be at a breaking point to ask for help?

    Wow, that question, surprising… totally new thought in my head. The breaking point timing fit my understanding of self-reliance in the Church (we only ask for help when we can't do for ourselves). Asking prior to that limit and without needing to feel guilty about it would seem a radical change for me.

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  25. Téa,

    I am not sure where that line is, but it seems to me that sometimes asking for help might help keep us from getting to the breaking point.

    That in a way can make it all the harder to know how and when to ask for help, but I can't help but think that sometimes it's wise to do so BEFORE we fall apart.

    I think this can be especially difficult with persistent challenges (you mentioned depression, I deal with chronic illness, as you know). Sometimes I will ask for help to help prevent completely losing it. For example, when my husband is out of town, I simply don't push myself to get up in the mornings, even though I probably could. Doing so would likely put me behind significantly in both physical and emotional ways, so instead of pushing like that, I ask for help. I have a friend who takes that morning shift for me, and that's that. That has become a line that I won't question anymore, even though I probably *could* push harder in that way. But it, in my world right now, would be unwise to do so.

    I also feel that the Spirit can help me figure out when I am asking amiss and when it's really ok to just ask and let it go, not feel guilty about it. The example from above is one that I just let go, because I know the consequences of not doing so, and they aren't good for me or my family.

    I think, too, that sometimes if we are feeling like we are drowning, we can think of something specific that someone could do for us. I did that a few months ago when I really could tell I needed help, and I was scared to death to ask. But someone offered, 'let me know if I can help' and I did. It was very, very hard, but I really needed the help (she helped w/ some cleaning that I just couldn't get on top of because of my migraines). It was also a defined task so I and she knew when it was done — and it was something that had lasting effects (the cleaning they did left its mark for weeks).

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