In Which I Avoid Asking for Help

A few weeks ago, I was preparing to speak for a Study Week at my software engineering school. For those of you who know my word of the year, this was a commitment I made before the new year : ) I was thankful to be able to take part. 

But I was struggling. I’d settled on the topic of communication, specifically how to become a better communicator in the workplace and why it matters. This is an easy topic for me. I co-run an entire podcast with a focus on communication, one of my all-time favorite books is about communication; I even taught a year-long high school course on the topic! This should be easy.

But it wasn’t. For whatever reason, I just couldn’t get my bearing. I had a lot of ideas, but there was no structure, no point, no cohesion. And it was starting to stress me out.

The woman who was leading the Study Week and who had invited me to speak checked in periodically. She kept offering to help me in any way she could. But I don’t need help, remember? I taught for seven years, preach frequently, and know everything about communication. I don’t need help!

But I did. Desperately. And during that week I realized just how hard it is for me to accept help when I think I am good at something. It’s easy for me to accept help in the realm of chess or basketball, because I barely know the rules for either one and I’m okay with that. But public speaking is my thing. Communication is my thing. Asking for help is…not my thing.

I had this false mental narrative that went something like: if I need help with something, that means I’m not good at it. So the only way for me to excel in something is to do it myself. Besides, if I need help, then I can’t take the credit when people really like it. Ah, there it is. Pure, unadulterated pride. That’s all it ever was. We can dress it up sometimes, but that’s often what it is.

The woman organizing the Study Week ended up helping me tremendously, as soon as I accepted her offer. I quite literally couldn’t have done it without her, and I’m thankful for her time, kindness, and encouragement. The presentation went well and people shared that they were encouraged and enriched (the presentation is here if you want to see it 🙂 ).

Photo by nikko macaspac on Unsplash

As I was thinking about my struggle with asking for help, I started to think it was one of those things that Jesus cared about but He didn’t experientially understand. Like…He’s God! He didn’t ever need help! Even when Peter sliced off someone’s ear in an attempt to protect Him, Jesus reminded him that He could call legions of angels to His defense. When did He need help?

Gethsemane. It wasn’t when He was being taken as if He were a criminal. It was before the mob ever showed up. He had taken Peter, James, and John and asked them to watch and pray with Him. He even asked them for this help again after they had fallen asleep the first time! Jesus was overwhelmed, asking His Father for another path than the one that lay before Him. He was the most vulnerable He had ever been. Instead of hiding this, He told them and asked for their help. And worse still, they didn’t give it to Him. 

This is the pinnacle of His purpose: John 3:16 happening. He came to die. As the Messiah, this is what He should be “good at”, where He shouldn’t “need help.” And it is here that He asked His closest friends for help: for them to watch and pray with Him.

When He shared that His soul was exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death; when He shared that this was hard, would I dare conclude then that Jesus is weak? That He wasn’t a good Messiah or Savior? Of course not! Yet this is the mentality that I was defaulting to, that I was allowing to shape how I saw myself and the offers of assistance. 

Unlike Jesus, I am far from perfect and have more opportunities to ask for help than can be articulated. And yet, like Jesus, I should lean on the community that God provides for me, even asking for help if I don’t have a favorable experience with it before because I need it. Because it even helps those who are giving the help. Because my pride will not run my life. Because a life of service involves allowing ourselves to be served, too.