When I discuss boundaries, I usually stress the importance of stewardship over your life. This includes taking responsibility for what belongs to you, what God has given you authority over—your body, your heart, your mind, your thoughts, your decisions, your words, your actions, your gifts and talents, your belongings, etc.
So, if these things are our responsibility, does that mean we can’t ask for help?
I think it’s a common misconception to believe that responsible, mature, healthy people never ask for help. Actually, the reverse is true: It’s healthy people that have no problem asking for help. Here’s how Brené Brown puts it in “The Gifts of Imperfection”:
Until we can receive with an open heart, we are never really giving with an open heart. When we attach judgment to receiving help, we knowingly or unknowingly attach judgment to giving help.
If we believe asking for help is a weakness, we will constantly be tempted to do everything all on our own. Brown also mentions, “It’s as if we’ve divided the world into ‘those who offer help’ and ‘those who need help’.” So, we are constantly trying to make sure we’re on the “those who offer help” side of the equation because that makes us look stronger, better, and more mature. The truth of the matter is that we were created to give and receive. We need an “in” flow and an “out” flow.
Healthy people understand this. They have learned that their identity is not tied to needing and receiving help. Actually, they see this ability to ask for help as a strength! After all, it is through these healthy give-and-take (or should I say “give-and-receive”?) relationships that we grow and mature.
Healthy people also take responsibility for getting their needs met. They also give others the freedom to say yes or no. Unhealthy people oftentimes have a difficult time asking for help directly. Because they believe asking for help is a sign of weakness or that it’s even other people’s responsibility to take care of them, they expect help without communicating their needs. This often involves manipulation, guilt trips, or flat-out control.
Another method unhealthy people use is rules. They will say things like, “That’s what family does!” or “But that’s a wife’s job!” to get what they want without being direct with what they need or desire.
I mentioned above that healthy people give others the freedom to say yes or no when asking for help. They don’t depend on just one or two people to meet their needs, so if someone tells them no, they have others to turn to. When they hear no from someone, healthy people respond with graciousness: “That’s totally fine. I understand.”
Unhealthy people, on the other hand, oftentimes have only a few people they turn to. And when they ask for help—directly or indirectly through manipulation—freedom is not communicated. When an unhealthy person hears no, they respond poorly in an attempt to force others into giving them what they want. They may say something like, “But I’m your mom!” or “How can you call yourself a Christian?” or “Ok. I guess I’m not that important to you.” Either way, there’s no grace to say no and there is absolutely no freedom. The message is: Either say yes to me or I will make you feel bad.
For more on this, read How Dare You! What to do When People Resist Your Boundaries.
What God has been teaching me through this is the idea of interdependence. We are not created to do life alone. We need people. When Adam was with God in the garden, God said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” Just like a human body, which is made up of many different parts all functioning to contribute to the overall health of the body, we are meant to live interdependently with one another.
Galatians 6:2 says, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” The Greek word for “burden” means “excess burden” or something so heavy that it weighs us down¹. When someone is weighed down by such a burden, it’s our responsibility as the body of Christ to surround this person with love and support.
Just a couple verses ahead in Galatians 6:4, it states, “Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load.” The Greek word for “load” means “cargo” or the “burden of daily toil”¹. These are the normal responsibilities that are inside our property lines or boundaries.
Problems arise when we get these two confused–when we allow others to take on our daily load or we feel responsible for someone else’s load. That’s not to say we can’t help, but we certainly do not take ownership of someone else’s life—their feelings, actions, thoughts, behavior, health, responsibilities, etc. That is theirs to shoulder.
We also have issues when we act as though we can carry our huge burdens all alone, whether we’re dealing with a season of depression, the death of a loved one, job loss, a big move, a divorce, or a new baby. These are the times we need to step out and ask for help.
When we are all taking authority of our lives and the responsibilities that God has given us–while allowing others to take authority of their own lives–we live life with the freedom to be able to help others in hard times, when burdens are too much to bear on their own. Healthy boundaries also give us more compassion for others as we are not weighed down in the bitterness and resentment that comes from taking on more responsibility than God has given us the grace for.
When it comes down to it, we are all needy people. Our deepest needs are only met through relationship—relationship with God and relationship with others. Saying we don’t need people is a lie. Believing it’s weak to ask for help is foolish. We all have days, weeks, months, or even long seasons of life where we are under such a heavy burden that we need the support of friends and the community of believers.
In fact, if it weren’t for our new church family, our supportive friends back home in Alaska, and our new friends who have encouraged and supported us here, my husband and I would have failed miserably in this season. We are moving forward on this journey with the help of God and others.
How about you? Do you have trouble asking for help? Do you find it easier to give than receive? What makes asking for and receiving help difficult? Please comment below!
More on Boundaries:
If you would like more in-depth information on boundaries, please check out my blogs:
“Boundaries” series by Henry Cloud and John Townsend
“Keep Your Love On” by Danny Silk