Desperation Requires the Right Support

Knowing the Difference Between Helping and Rescuing

In the last 48 hours alone, I’ve been contacted about four heroin overdoses. Two failing marriages. One suicide attempt. Another self-harm situation. And a rape. On top of those heartbreaking scenarios, I’m watching the news of nations try to recover from catastrophic disasters. People are clearing away debris and burying their dead. Desperation is on the rise.

Timothy Eldred | Helping v. Rescuing

Faces of Desperation

Sometimes life just happens. And there’s nothing we can do about it. To no fault of our own, the bottom falls out leaving us without hope—help seems to be a distant fantasy outside our reach. And that’s hell on earth.

When we slow down enough to listen, we’re surrounded by cries of desperation with painted on faces we pass every day. But do we notice? Or do we bypass people’s pain because we’re too busy dealing with our own situations?

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There are harder questions we must consider when we hear about people’s pain and problems. Do we pass judgment? And even throw rocks? Maybe you’ve asked these questions:

  • “What’s wrong with them?”
  • “What were they thinking?”
  • “When will they ever learn?”

Last night, Cindy and I were discussing a situation when passing judgment on a person would have been the path of least resistance. But we paused to remember how desperation impacts decisions. So we chose pity instead of piety.

When people are desperate, they put on a happy face. Mask their pain with an emoji. And disguise their despair in public. Sometimes they even make long-term, life-altering decisions in search of short-term relief.

Making poor decisions is problematic when the bottom falls out of our world. These are the moments when people need real support to help them out of their hole—no matter how they arrived there. But how do you really help them?

Empower—Don’t Enable

Stopping ourselves from stepping into people’s crisis is difficult. But resisting and restraining ourselves from rescuing is calculated compassion. Because people must own their problems to feel empowered as hard as it is to let them.

Genuine care requires giving people the opportunity to make choices for themselves and own the consequences. More often than not, intervention is unnecessary. Because saving instead of supporting only prolongs the pain.

In the heat of battle, providing backup is better than wading into war. This principle applies to most crises. We hear cries of desperation. We come alongside in support. And we stay only long enough for people to stand on their own feet.

Eventually, everyone must take ownership for their own recovery. They must rebuild their lives. Because ownership of personal problems produces healthy pride and constructs self-confidence. In life. And even in natural disasters.

Some situations are worse than others. When a storm takes away your home. Or when a friend takes their own life. Those are catastrophic conditions. And they require more time, effort, energy, and practical support.

But most day-to-day dilemmas aren’t dire. They don’t demand our immediate attention or intervention. Most people just need a listening ear and a kind word from someone who will help them back on their horse—not ride it for them.

Opportunities for Growth

The people suffering from the devastation of recent natural disasters know desperation. And they will for a long time. Humanity must intervene as long as it takes. But we must also eventually give them the opportunity to forge their own future. After the worst of the mess is removed and the crisis contained, growth will eventually take place as they own the efforts and rise from the rubble.

Only when we let people make decisions for their future will they learn to see obstacles as opportunities. If you’re looking to escape your hell, enter someone else’s. If you’re trying to help someone out of their hole, get in it with them…

…then get out. And watch them grow!

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