Sometimes the simplest little things can have big impact on our lives. In this series of posts I examine very short sentences (each just three words long) that can make a difference in your life. If you have a three word sentence that changed your life somehow, share it with me and I will share it with the world.
If the first three word sentence – I love you – is the biggie, then today’s three word sentence may be the hardest for many to say. First you have to admit it to yourself and then you have to say it out loud to someone else. I suspect that people who work in various self-help groups, like AA or DA or GA, would tell you that admitting it or, maybe better stated, realizing that you need help is the biggest barrier to getting the help that you need.
I suspect that this is more of a guy problem than it is for women. From fairly early childhood boys are taught and conditioned to try to be self-reliant, to be stoic in our pain or disappointments and to keep a stiff upper lip and carry on. You don’t cry when you get hurt, you “shake it off.” In some street-level scenarios this goes even further and we are taught not to be snitches, even though we know that fingering the perpetrator of a crime to the proper authorities is the right thing to do. We are essentially taught to hold it in; to try to work it out ourselves; not to ask for outside help. Running to mommy to get help with the bully who is bugging you is considered to be bad.
And so it goes from a young age. We build layer upon layer of self-reinforcing rationale for not asking for help. It is after all not the manly thing to do. When we finally get to adulthood we are faced with a completely new set of challenges. How do we deal with getting laid off when there is a new baby on the way? How do we deal with having gambled away this week’s paycheck, even though the rent is due? How do we deal with homing home so drunk so many nights that we can’t remember when the last time was that we saw our kids before they went to bed? How do we deal with feeling like we have let down the one that we promised to cherish and protect through thick and through thin?
Like crap, would be the quick and easy answer to those questions; but, that does not really face the problem. The problem in many, if not all of those cases, is that you need help. The good news is that help is out there; all over the place, among your family and friend, in churches, in groups and organizations like AA, DA and GA that are just waiting to help you. The bad news for most is that you have to realize that you need it and ask for it. No one is going to come knocking on your door and say, “Hey, I was just out here and wondering if you need help?” You need to ask.
So, how do you get to the point where you can ask for help? For some it is only possible when they are staring into the abyss and realize that the next step in that direction leads to the end. They literally have to be scared to death or scared of death, before they will act. For many it can be arriving at the logical end of the line of all of the things that they thought that they could do by themselves. They literally have to exhaust all possible alternatives that they can think of. The problem with both of those approaches is that they often lose those that they love along the way, because they let things go on for too long and resisted getting help to change. Ask any ex-wife of an abusive spouse how long they stayed just hoping that the one they loved at one time would get help that they never sought.
Let me suggest a different way to cope. If you’ve hit a problem or recognized that you have a problem that you don’t know how you can solve yourself, admit that to yourself first and then free yourself to seek help. For some, with a religious foundation to their lives, that may start by admitting in prayer that you need help. I have found in my life that the simple prayer, “Not my will, but thy will be done”, frees me from the baggage of being stubbornly self-reliant and allows me to move from being isolated by my own stubbornness to asking for help. I’ve always found the help I needed, once I found the will to ask for it.
For others it may be that sitting down and talking about the issue with a loved one or good friend will be the start. They’ve probably been telling your for some time to get help, but you weren’t listening . Maybe they can even suggest where to get the help that you need. I almost assure you that they will be supportive, because they’ve probably been concerned about you for some time and this will let them be a par to the help that you need. For an unfortunate few it may be that the ride in the back seat of a police car will be what it takes. That is usually too late to recover without consequences; but it can be the sobering experience that pushes you over the edge and allows you to ask for help.
If nothing else, maybe here’s a way to start when you are dealing with a problem that you feel lost about. Go find a mirror and look into it and say, “I need help…I can’t do this by myself.” Don’t just say it once; say it over and over until you have peeled away those layers of resistance and believe it and are ready to act upon that thought. Don’t be surprised if the guy you see in the mirror has a tear running down his cheek. He needs help…offer yours – get him help.