The Profound Paradox of Hurting While Helping

I have to much to learn as a parent. *Sigh* I’m so thankful I have a forgiving student, test case and daughter in Brooklyn.

Recently, I met Bob Lupton, author of Toxic Charity, at a leadership event. He explained the idea of empowerment and dis-empowerment related to “doing good for others.” When we do for others, we create a slide from:

Appreciation -> Anticipation -> Expectation -> Entitlement -> Dependency

In the course of “doing for others,” we are really taking away their power and creating a cycle of dependency. Similar to the Hippocratic Oath, Bob has created the Oath of Charity. A core tenant: Never do for the poor what they can do for themselves.

This is true of every relationship in everyday life – poor or not. As a leader, I inherently understand the importance of empowerment.

Brooklyn has strong muscles

Brooklyn has strong muscles

This empowerment idea struck a chord for me last night as Brooklyn was in the bath. She called me in to hand her the shampoo, which was on the shelf and too high for her to reach. As I turned the bottle over and shook it in preparation to wash her hair, she freaked out and said, “I can do it.” I resisted. She freaked out. I resisted more; I wanted her hair washed right…whatever that means.

In the minute, I was frustrated because I was “helping.” Why was she not accepting my help? And, somewhere in my delusional mind, I’m sure I didn’t want to “waste” the extra four cents on the shampoo, too. But, I caught myself and gave her the bottle. She was right. I was wrong. My helping was hurting; it was clearly stripping her of the power to help herself. She was more than capable of washing her own hair…even if she did use too way too much shampoo.

Lesson learned: I’ll gladly trade wasted shampoo, sticky dripped syrup and spilled milk for an empowered daughter. Let her explore and fall forward. I just need to support when called upon and then get the hell out of her way.

As a natural “Helper,” I had never really thought about the profound paradox that my “helping” could be dis-empowering friends, family or co-workers. But, I am now. What about you?

Random Quote

“There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action.”

— Goethe

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