Hello. Thanks for coming in today. How can I help you?”
It sounds like a good way to start a counselling session, right? It’s polite, upbeat, and welcoming. But listen to what I said “ How can I help you? This statement clearly establishes the role of who is helping who. Who is the rescuer and who needs the saving?
From the very outset of your meeting, the person struggling feels like they have no ability to overcome their life struggles. They are powerless and coming to you for help.
But we are supporters, not saviours
Supporting someone is walking alongside them as they journey through their life.
As caregivers, we can’t save anyone
As caregivers, we can tend overreach and try to help everyone.
It doesn’t matter if we are teachers, social workers, pastors or missionaries. We have a passion for caring and supporting others.
Intentions are good. We want to encourage, uplift and help them live their best life. However, how we position ourselves as helper or saviour can actually demobilize people and cause them to be less effective in their journey of overcoming.
There are a lot of really good reasons why we want to help people
- We feel compassion for the person’s struggle
- We remember our own difficult situations
- We don’t want them to feel disappointed and discouraged
- We wonder if God has placed us in their life for this situation
- We think we may be the only solution for them
But all of these reasons point to satisfying a need in ourselves, rather than the need of others.
As caregivers, we need to position ourselves in the caring relationship as the supports, not the saviour.
It’s not our job to rescue them from difficulty or hardship.
It is very hard to cheer someone on from the sidelines as they struggle. It would be so much easier to step in and just pick them up, dust them off and do the work for them so they can find freedom faster
I think of how I support my kids in their school worker.
It would be so much easier if I just stepped in and did the math work for them
There would be less struggle, less tears, less complaining, less time having to hear how difficult it is.
However, by doing the work FOR my child they aren’t learning any skills and they are not growing more confident. It’s only going to make the next question or project that much harder.
So… I sit with as the struggle. I break the problem down into smaller pieces. I describe the problem in a new way and I sometimes use objects or stories so they see the math problem differently.
It can be tempting to do the work FOR a person. I mean, it would be easier, and it feels at the outset that you’re are being helpful. However, now, you are the provider of the solution and the hero of their story.
Use the same skills when supporting others that you would use when helping your kids with homework. Often times people make changes at a much slower pace than we would expect. But by breaking the problem down so it’s not as overwhelming, trying to reframe or encourage looking at the problem a new way and even using analogies and stories to see some new possibilities gives the person an opportunity to gain skills, confidence and overcome.
People need to become the heroes of their own stories.
When someone is asking for support it’s usually because they have tried all that they know what to do and it’s not working. They are overwhelmed and feeling defeated. Our job is to come alongside them and become supporters, not saviours.
We are to work with someone, not work for someone.
I find that a quick and simple way to check if I have crossed over that line of supporter to saviour is the ask. Am I working harder than the person I am supporting?
If the answer is yes, then I need to take a step back and let the person take the lead and be the hero of their own life.