Don't do for others what they can do for themselves

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Robert Maurer
@robertmaurer
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“Many years ago, in a distant monastery in Tibet, there lived a young man who aspired to become a monk. He had a great desire to learn, so when one day his teacher told him they were going on a journey, the young man prepared himself with great enthusiasm.

They walked for several days, until they reached a village where a very humble family lived. They asked them for shelter and food. The family welcomed them and shared everything they had with them. The aspiring monk asked them how they managed to support themselves.



The father of the family replied: “We have a cow that gives us everything we need: milk and cheese. So let's change what we don't consume for other foods. This is how we live.

When night came, the elder monk said to his disciple: "take advantage of the fact that they are sleeping, go to the stable and scare the cow".

The young man protested “how can I do it? The cow is the only thing they have, it's their livelihood! "

The monk said nothing, turned and walked away.

The young man spent several hours meditating, but as he highly respected his teacher, he went to the stable and scared the cow. Then he felt so guilty that he left the house, disappointment also prevented him from returning to the monastery. He didn't want to be like those monks anymore.

He spent his days traveling thinking about the poor family he had left with no means of support. So he set out to work hard to save enough and buy a cow to compensate for the damage he had done to the family.

But the cows were expensive, it took a few years before he could save enough money. Finally he returned to the village and, much to his surprise, saw a luxurious hotel where the humble abode had previously been.



He approached the man who was sitting on the porch and asked him: "Excuse me, a few years ago did not a very humble family live here that had a cow?"

The man looked at him and said, "yes, yes, that's us."

The young man looked at him in disbelief and asked: "but ... how did you manage to prosper so much?"

The man said, “Well… look, one day, the cow that gave us a living disappeared. At first we were very worried, we did not know what we would continue to live on. Then we started thinking. We realized that our land was very good for planting vegetables, so we began to cultivate a garden that flourished and yielded one crop after another. So we started swapping some vegetables for other foods and sold the rest. With the money we made we bought some cattle, we raised them and started selling the excess animals, with the money we earned we managed to expand the house and we started renting rooms ... And as you can see, we are now the owners of the only hotel in town. ! "

This story contains several lessons, one of which is that very often the best help we can give is to encourage people to leave their comfort zone. How to help a depressed person? Sometimes we need to avoid the pity that invites others to stay where they are. Other times, staying on the sidelines is also helping.

When the "savior" becomes a victim of the "saved"

Sometimes, adopting the role of "savior" can be very damaging to others. Helping without being asked can be a serious mistake because, although we are motivated by a feeling of genuine generosity, we are limiting the other's possibilities for learning and growth. Sometimes this help generates an addictive relationship in which one of the people feels so comfortable that they do nothing to improve.



In that relationship, the savior gives continuously, until he finds himself physically and psychologically emptied, while the saved just takes. This creates an unhealthy balance in which the savior carries a double burden, his own and that of the other person. The worst thing is that, in many cases, when the savior tries to get rid of the weight that does not correspond to him, others may come to see him as selfish and not very empathetic. This feeling of guilt will ensure that he continues to carry the weight of the other.

Therefore, it is not unusual for the "savior" to end up becoming the victim of the "saved". It is a situation where no one wins, not even the other person, because by preventing him from making an effort, we are limiting his freedom and the ability to achieve goals through his efforts.

It is essential not to nurture this type of relationship because the "saved" people become passive and in some cases even selfish, believing that they have the right and control over their "savior".

Not intervening is also helping

The secret is to help others when they really need it and ask for it. In many cases, counting on someone's help can be convenient, but that doesn't mean it's the best solution or the one that brings the most long-term benefits.

Life experiences strengthen and make people more resilient, so preventing others from dealing with them is, in a way, a kind of emotional castration. Someone who is vulnerable needs our help, but only up to a point. The goal should be to try and get that person to manage on their own so that they can continue walking on their own legs.


What we must never do for others is take responsibility for their lives away from them. We can help them carry their weight for a while, or teach them to carry it better, but we can't carry it for them, forever. Helping a person does not mean adopting them for life. And this is as true for couples as it is for children and friends. A growing relationship is one that nourishes and enriches, not one that castrates and limits.


Emotional validation, the key to helping you grow

The key to helping others is to maintain a relationship characterized by full presence and unconditional acceptance. It doesn't mean turning your back on the other and neglecting his problems to solve them as he can, but it does mean validating his feelings and encouraging him.

Sometimes a hug, or the simple fact of knowing that someone is there to help us pick up the pieces is more than enough. This means that in many cases our help will be limited to a process of emotional accompaniment, while the person makes his decisions, makes his mistakes, corrects them and moves on.

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