Learning to Ask For Help

This week marked the beginning of Lent, and while traditionally you give up something bad for the forty days, I decided that I was going to spend this Lenten season adding something positive instead. I promised myself that I will go to church at least once a week between now and Easter – and that while I’m at it, I’ll “church shop” and check out some new-to-me churches in my area. Although I was raised Catholic, I’m also going to try out some Lutheran and non-denominational churches as well. I figure the point is more to go to church and worship God than it is to do it in a specific denominational way, and if I can find a slightly different church whose message makes me want to go every week, that’s definitely better than just going at Christmas, Easter, and Ash Wednesday like I do now.

So tonight, I spent a little bit of time researching churches in my area, and reading up on what each one was about. Several of the church websites mentioned the concept of asking for help when you need it, which I kind of dismissed. But then I decided to check out the website of a church in Boulder where I knew my childhood friend Ben is a pastor, and after browsing the website, came upon Ben’s bio. In response to what he’s been learning about God lately, Ben said, “God cares for us through the church. To refuse help and community is like walking away from what God is doing.” I had always thought of refusing help as a bad thing, so this really stuck in my mind.

Mount_Sherman_Summit

Absolutely no help accepted in getting to the summit of Mount Sherman last summer, even though it took me two tries. (However, I did accept help from another hiker in taking this photo.)

One thing I’ve been working hard to instill in my team members at work lately is the idea that asking questions when you don’t understand is a good thing. Too often, we don’t want to look dumb, and so we don’t ask the questions on our mind – even if they might in fact be questions on everyone’s mind. How many times have you been in a meeting and had no idea what was going on, but you didn’t ask a question because everyone else seemed to get it? A lot of the time, they’re just as confused as you are, and I’ve found that it actually makes you look smarter and more confident that you’re willing to go out on a limb and ask clarifying questions – I really admire my coworkers who are completely honest that they don’t understand. (Updated to add that I just found an article indicating that people who are inquisitive are more likely to be seen as intelligent and engaged. Proof!)

As a boss, I would much rather answer a few questions up front than have to deal with a lot of rework later. I’m working to ask questions more myself as well, which is why I spent some today asking a colleague to explain the basics of our testing process, so that I could better understand what’s feasible and what’s not. I felt kind of dumb asking some of the questions I did, since I felt like I should know this stuff. Fortunately, my colleague was incredibly patient and didn’t laugh at a single one of my questions, and I took great notes on everything she said. Now, I feel like I’m much more informed for some of the project planning I need to do.

This afternoon was also our latest edition of the women’s book club at my firm’s Denver office… but I had to miss the discussion. I woke up with a crazy sore throat this morning that was about two octaves lower than my usual voice, and while I felt fine otherwise, I didn’t want to get anyone else sick. I was really bummed to miss out on the discussion and camaraderie of the group! This month’s book was Rising Strong by Brene Brown, and while I wasn’t immediately a fan, it grew on me. One passage about two-thirds of the way through really resonated with me:

“Dependence starts when we’re born and lasts until we die. We accept our dependence as babies, and ultimately, with varying levels of resistance, we accept help as we get to the end of our lives. But in the middle of our lives, we mistakenly fall prey to the myth that successful people are those who help rather than need, and broken people need rather than help. Given enough resources, we can even pay for help and create the mirage that we are completely self-sufficient. But the truth is that no amount of money, influence, resources, or determination will change our physical, emotional, and spiritual dependence on others. Not at the beginning of our lives, not in the messy middle, and not at the end.”

I love how this passage encourages you to ask for help when you need it, and not to be ashamed in doing so. To me, it was the perfect tie-in to what I’ve been pondering lately about asking questions and reaching out for community support. So tonight, I took that lesson to heart.

I was incredibly upset about this being Valentine’s Day weekend and me not having any plans. Usually, even if I’m single, I plan a really nice treat for myself for Valentine’s Day – like my ski trip to Chamonix a few years ago. This year, I had originally thought I’d go skiing in Breckenridge tomorrow, but now I’m afraid that I’m too sick for that to be a good idea. Just about all the plans I had for this weekend have fallen through, and I found myself dreading the end of the work day… because then what would I do with myself?

So I reached out to my closest friends and texted an SOS. I believe my exact words were, “I am a mess right now and in need of an intervention”! But despite my tongue-in-cheek dramatics, my friends came through like absolute champs – all of them offering to meet up at some point this weekend, and two even showing up on my doorstep tonight for some casual dinner and cheering up. That was exactly what I needed tonight, and I’m so grateful to my friends for being there when I needed them.

Moral of the story: I think I need to get used to reaching out for help more often.

 

Comments

  1. I didn’t plan on reading “Rising Strong” but a lot of people keep saying it is a good book. I think I will give it a try now. I think it’s hard for introverts to ask for help. I’m independent but I’m also shy about asking for help.
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  2. I am a Catholic convert and find comfort in taking my prayers and problems to God at Eucharistic Adoration. I would suggest finding an Adoration Chapel in the area and just saying some prayers (Rosary maybe?) and then just talking to and giving thanks to God at adoration. This works wonders. I will pray for you. Love your blog. Thanks. Kevin

    • Thanks, Kevin!

    • Hmm, nice Kevin! I was going to say that the act of naming and thanking blessings is an incredibly powerful thing to do (before Kevin beat me to it!). In a way its kinda like asking for help, by acknowledging all the help that I (we) have received. The more clearly I see all the blessings in my life, then the easier it is to ask for help.

    • There is a lot of research around how keeping a gratitude journal and otherwise being conscious of your blessings can make you happier… though I will admit that I haven’t tried that yet myself.

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