My Vocations Chaplain left me with a few things to think about after our first meeting. I looked at the first of them, my image of God, in Who is He? Now it’s time to consider the second, the sin of the helper.
I admit, it sounds rather heavy but as he explained it to me it intrigued me.
A starting point for me in consciously exploring ordination was being prepared to be a vicar if that is what God is asking me to do. Vicars play a wide range of different roles: leader, preacher, teacher, pastor, encourager, reconciler, manager and administrator to name but a few. One thing that is central to them all is that of a helper.
Vicars help us to connect with God. They help people and communities to overcome obstacles, tough times, and grief. They help people to understand God’s love. They help.
The phrase ‘the sin of the helper’ raises plenty of questions, most obviously is it ever wrong to help?
Perhaps the question should not be whether it is ever wrong to help someone. Perhaps the ‘sin’ of the helper is found in why you want to help.
The reason behind being asked to consider the phrase was around my identity and source of self-worth. The reason behind wanting to help reveals much about ourselves. Do I get my feeling of being valued, even needed, from helping people? Is my motivation in helping people one of seeking to assist them in anyway I can or is it to make me feel good, needed and important?
Does it actually matter if I’m helping to make myself feel good? After all, if someone benefits from my help does my reason for helping matter?
Our motivation shows where our heart is and where we find our security. If we find it in worldly things we are more likely to be disappointed or hurt when our efforts are rejected, abused, or not even recognised. If we are secure in ourselves and find our motivation in honouring God in what we do, any negative consequences we might face can be easier to cope with.
Loving ourselves as God loves us is, I believe, fundamental to ensuring our motivation in helping others is healthy and fruitful.
There have been times in the past when I didn’t like myself. There were the dark days when I couldn’t accept that I was of value to anyone, and it took time for that to change. God was instrumental in that change and I grew to see how He loved me, not only through Jesus’s atoning sacrifice. I began to understand that I was a valued person, with much to offer God and the world.
I found my source of security in God, not in others. It was then that I could be effective in serving people, my motivation was not to feel needed. It was also when I was ready to be in a relationship and not place a burden of dependency on another person, the saviour-syndrome as I like to call it.
“In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” Acts 20:35
Have you ever stopped and analysed your emotions when you are the helper? When do you feel best: in the act of helping, the giving phase; or in the praise and thanks you may get after helping, the receiving phase?
I didn’t include the scripture to condemn or suggest that there is only one answer, but as a challenge. You may be like me, someone who finds it easier to give or to help than to receive or be helped. My fear of an overinflated ego sometimes stops me from giving adequate thanks to a compliment and reflecting on it.
A loving friend once challenged me, helpfully pointing out that if everyone only helped or gave we would reach a stalemate and no one would be able to receive. There is also the flip-side to being helped, by being blessed we often bless the helper. I’m not the only one to have noticed that after helping you can feel as though you have been given much more back than you have given.
Helping in order to be blessed though is different and, for me, is the sin of the helper. I would be fooling myself and you if I didn’t acknowledge that failing to have your efforts recognised doesn’t hurt. It may simply be that we are not there to our efforts bearing fruit in that person’s life. From that perspective, the blessings that I do receive when I help are an added bonus, they are not what I seek in helping, they are not my motivation.
I love helping people. I love to see someone smile when they realise that they can do something, when it clicks and they understand something new. I love it when they realise their potential.
Releasing potential is a passion that I find burning increasingly brightly inside of me as I explore God’s calling on my life. It seems as if the place God is calling me to release that potential from is in ordained ministry. But of course I could be wrong!