There are two things I look for in trying to decide whether to “help” someone who is asking for assistance on a specific problem or issue in their life. What I’m trying to determine is whether this person is only looking for someone to solve their problem FOR them (while they watch television or something) or maybe even trying to take advantage of me since I am a helper by nature. The two main things I look for are:
- Blame and
If I hear a lot of blame in the way the individual presents the problem, issue or their own responsiblity for the situation then I know the person is not really interested in investing their own time, effort or resources into solving the problem. This means they are looking to use MY time, effort and resources to solving the problem while they use their own time, effort or resources for something else. Someone who is placing blame in a time of need is not someone you really want to help. This is a person who creates crisis or problems in their own life constantly and is only looking for someone to provide for their temporary needs and will become (for you) a bottomless pit of need. And you, by the way, will be added to the list to blame because they keep getting themselves into the same situations over and over again. If you had only given them your car when they needed it, they would not have had to rob that bank to get money to go to Las Vegas (because if they had gotten to Las Vegas they would have made millions gambling after they sold your car for money to gamble).
The other thing I look for is gratitude. I don’t mean gratitude toward me after I’ve helped. I mean gratitude upfront (when they are telling me their story) about something or someone in their life right now. You will know it when you hear it. While they are telling you how awful things are do they also point out things they are thankful for? The lack of gratitude is most obvious when they start naming criteria for the help they are willing to accept. Also they will turn down many ideas or solutions (especially if it involves them actually doing something to help themselves). I call this the “green curtain” warning. In other words: they are homeless (and claim they will end up sleeping on a bench if you don’t help) but they want to specify very specifically the kind of place they will and will not stay–to the point it seems like the color of the curtains will be a detriment. This person, by the way, has other options and resources they aren’t telling you about.
I think it’s great to help people but I don’t like being taken advantage of or creating dependency on me for any and all problems a person has for the rest of their life. Afterall, I want to have a life too.