Warning: Stop helping people!

Hardly does anyone approach me with a need without getting it met — until recently. In one of the organisations I served before stepping out to design my envisioned lifestyle, I always had a solution for everyone. That seemed to make me a star with my colleagues but it also created some tension with my manager. He thought I was a people pleaser who loved to be in people’s good books. But that’s far from it. I am simply a natural caregiver — always quick to spot needs and eager to meet them. And that has turned out to be my biggest weakness.

Not that it’s totally bad to help people but it’s not totally good either. Here are some pointers to help you draw the line between helping people and wearing yourself out.

1. Don’t help someone when you cannot totally afford it

Before committing yourself to meeting a need or solving someone’s problem make sure you have all it takes. At least be sure you have the skills and can afford the time. Otherwise you will muddle things up, wear yourself out and maybe even sour the relationship. This reminds me of an experience with a friend who needed ‘urgent’ assistance to meet some financial commitments. Based on the strength of our relationship and the promise of getting the money back in two weeks, I loaned out the needed sum [which was almost three times my monthly take-home] from funds that should be otherwise untouched.

To cut the long story short, two weeks became eight months. I practically had to fight for my money before getting it back — after enduring the pain of doing a lot of extra work to block the initial deficit. That was when I knew that to borrow is human; to pay back is divine. 🙂 Helping people when you can’t really afford it will not only cause you pain but also deny your beneficiary the opportunity to receive better help from a better equipped or more capable source.

On another occasion I agreed to take up an assistant role which I was not totally prepared for. I was confident I could easily combine it with existing commitments. How wrong I was! In no time it started hogging my time, money and energy such that I barely had margin for anything else. I loved my principal and truly wanted to help but obviously, I simply couldn’t afford it. I had two options – quit or play down my priorities. I chose to quit so I could have the freedom to allocate my time and energy to the things that matter most to me and activities that serve my purpose.

2. Don’t help people who don’t deserve it

This probably sounds hard but it’s basic wisdom. Accepting it will simplify your life and save you needless heartaches. Your resources are limited. Channel them to investments that will yield the highest returns. For instance you can’t continue to help someone who chooses to live an unruly life without being responsible or accountable to anyone. Helping such people will be a case of giving children’s bread to dogs or feeding pigs with pearls. They will trample your treasure and then turn to attack you. (Matthew 7:6).

Some people don’t really want to be helped; they simply want someone to clean up their mess. Rather than re-ordering their circumstances and taking responsibility for their lives, they are merely looking for sympathy and support. If you have dealt with such people you would realise that they keep doing the same foolish things again and again. You can’t help them. They will only wear you out and make you regret it.

Stop helping people who are irresponsible and unaccountable. They will only wear you out. Click To Tweet

3. Don’t help people who don’t care about you or value your work

Another hard truth you need to face is that most people don’t really care about you. They only care about what you can do for them or what they can get from you. These are the kind of people that suddenly remember you when they have a project or find themselves in a situation where they need your skills, talents, influence or some advantage that you can create for them. They approach you with feigned respect and admiration as long as you continue to serve their purpose. The moment they find that they can no longer exploit or manipulate you they begin to express their real opinion about you which had been negative all along. You suddenly become a bad person.

When people care about you they will value your work. They will recognise that you have bills to pay and a moral responsibility to make money from your work.

They start telling everyone how you’re such a cheat and a hypocrite. They frame things up to disparage you while painting themselves as the well-meaning party seeking redress. I love the way Jill Blakeway puts it: “When toxic people can no longer control you, they will try to control how others see you. The misinformation will seem unfair but stay above it, trusting that other people will eventually see the truth, just like you did.”

How do you recognise these toxic people so you can avoid them? I’m not sure I can list all the pointers but I can give you one — they don’t care about you or value your work. They are the people who would waste your time, request your professional services for free or employ you for a pittance. That’s not to say you can’t work for people pro bono but it has to come after they have offered to pay.

Get advice for handling people requesting your professional services for free or for a pittance. Click To Tweet

When people care about you they will value your work. They will recognise that you have bills to pay; hence the need to make money from your work. If someone doesn’t care about how you feed your family or pay your rent why should you make such person a priority?

And if someone lives in Banana Island and drives a high-class car while you’re hustling to catch BRT or Danfo from Ikorodu to Obalende, does it make sense to continually offer such person your services for free? Nothing goes for nothing; doing your best work will certainly cost you something. It’s only fair that you get paid for it.

So how do you decide when to help?

In the end it all boils down to being a good manager of the resources that God has entrusted to you. Every need you choose to meet leaves you with less time and energy to invest in your God-given assignment and the things that matter to you. You must know when to say ‘yes’ and how to say ‘no’ to take control of your life. It’s not enough to help people solve their problems if you can’t help them take responsibility for their life. Sometimes the best way to help people is by allowing them to grow instead of always jumping in to play the saviour’s role.

Question: What do you think about the points raised in this post? What would you like to add or remove? Share your comments below or in our WhatsApp group.

Opt In Image
Maximise your life
Learn how to master your art and profit from purpose

My goal is to help entrepreneurs and young professionals take charge of their lives by mastering their art and profiting from purpose so that they can find fulfilment, margin and financial freedom. Does any of that sound like something you desire? Enter your first name and email below and let's grow together.