About a couple weeks ago, l met someone during one of my Meetup Events. She was, somewhat troubled. A person going through a difficult time for various reasons. A few days after our meeting, she inquired to me for advice. It was, pretty heavy stuff. Nothing that I had the answer for in the moment. So with her permission, I asked whether I could ponder over the question and answer it on the podcast. She agreed.
So here is the question.
“I hit a bit of a wall yesterday. I’ve hit this wall before, but always found a distraction. I’m tired of distracting myself from this wall, so here’s the question…
For lack of a better way to put it, I feel like I’ve spent my life following this vague but strong urge to help others, and i’m now just realizing that others don’t really care. I cannot stomach the idea of just living for myself. So… what is there to live for? I’ve been searching online, and all I see are made-up answers that one can choose to believe or not believe, but what is the truth?”
Margaret, shall we call you Margaret? Ok.
Not unlike you Margaret, I too feel a universal pull to help others. I think that’s what being human is. Those who lack this compassion for their fellow planet-mates are often selfish and fragmented - even if they don’t appear so on the surface. We are all here because of each other - we must remember that - and that there is a little bit of us in every one of us - until one can realize this, they can not know what it means to be human.
So first and foremost, take pride for having such a huge heart Margaret. If you are the type to get upset over not being able to do enough for your close friends and family, then I think that speaks volumes to what a human you are. And I’m sorry that those people aren’t appreciating this side of you as much as I am - perhaps you’re surrounded by those who don’t require help at the moment.
How do you expect someone to eat the most amazing meal of their lives if they’d just eaten?
Think about that for a second.
Let me level with you for a second Margaret. This is a personal anecdote of mine. I was once a very insecure and ashamed person. I didn’t think I was worthy of anything good, or deserved anything decent. I thought life was meant to be difficult and sad - I could never give into joy for fear of sabotaging the good coming into my life.
During this time period, I developed an especially acute desire to help others. My mentality was, “If I’m not worthy of living a spectacular life, then I will do everything in my power to allow for others to do so”. This is a great sentiment, but only to a healthy degree. I want you to continue deriving joy from helping others, but not to the point where your entire existence is contingent on it.
Because not every help is helpful - or rather, effective. I’m sure you can remember a situation when someone went out of their way to do something nice for you, only to make matters worse.
As far as I’m concerned Margaret, the people refusing your offers of help are in fact giving you the greatest blessing of all. The value for your time. The time you can spend in them with little efficacy, you can instead do something more tangible or impactful elsewhere. They’re letting you know, “I don’t need it, put that energy somewhere else where it will matter more”.
We live in a less than perfect planet - greatly due to our own shortcomings as humans. So realize that depending on the human condition as a source for validation is a slippery slope. Don’t get dependent on those who don’t require your help. But most importantly, realize that because we live in a planet that’s less than ideal in many ways - it offers us plenty of chances to better it’s flaws - and thus, giving our lives a sense of purpose.
Put your heart where it matters Margaret.
(Originally Published 5/15/19)