My Musings

When Helping Hurts

When Helping Hurts

Hardship can be healthy. This can be difficult to see in the moment but the following simple questions will hopefully expand your vision:

  1. How can you kill a baby chick? Help it out of its eggshell, reducing its need to struggle.
  2. How can you kill a butterfly? Help it out of its cocoon.
  3. How can you kill a baby kangaroo? Help it get from the mother’s womb to the pouch. Fact: Mother marsupials do not assist their tiny offspring in this painstaking journey.

Of course, helping others is one of the best things we can do with our time. It can be a magnificent mission for your entire life. Do it sacrificially. But always cast your vision beyond the moment. Compassion without discernment can do great harm. Wise compassion is far more than a momentary notion or noble emotion.

Now, let’s move from the animal kingdom to human civilization:

  1. How can parents cripple children? Give them everything their little hearts crave. Solve their problems for them, do their homework and apply for their jobs.
  2. How can we destroy the family? Let adulterers pursue “love” wherever it takes them. Let anyone redefine marriage any way they please. Let polygamists pile one “love” on another. Let homosexuals make families that deprive children of a mom and a dad in the home and pretend that it makes no difference either way. Disparage marriage to protect unmarried parents from feeling bad. Then indiscriminately subsidize out-of-wedlock births. Just follow “love” anywhere it leads.
  3. How can you hurt the poor? Give them cash and walk away. Deny that most money given to transients goes to drugs, alcohol and gambling. As a minister in Arcadia, California, I learned that most of the heartfelt “I need cash” cases I heard coincided with the Santa Anita Racetrack racing season.

Real compassion is willing to work on a case-by-case basis, looking beyond the easy one-size-fits-all options. Giving kids what they want, following “love” (the pure emotional kind, that is) and throwing cash around are easy options. But “easy” is seldom the way of real love (the helpful kind, that is). Easy options can leave the needy worse off than before.

Again, hardship can be healthy. Observe…

  • Patience can only rise in a world where things do not come easy or on time.
  • Courage only rises amid fear and hardship. Real love expresses itself only where there is need.
  • Purity finds meaning only in a dirty world.
  • Integrity finds its highest expression amid difficulty.
  • Justice and righteousness rise highest where life is NOT fair.

Isn’t it from dirt that flowers grow? Likewise, genuine moral virtue grows best from the soil of difficulty and suffering. Shortcuts around hardship cannot get us all the way to the realm of virtue. Sadly, most people don’t even want to go there.

Christians do! We are resolved to help people in need, but not necessarily on their unhelpful terms and not at the price of our moral virtue. Our mission is to show compassion to those in trouble without feeding the problem. This may draw us away from one-size-fits-all easy options. Sorry. It may not bring you applause either. Compassion rooted in wisdom may not seem like “love” to those who want help on their own terms. But it is.

Remember the marsupials.


About the Author:

Joel graduated from Pepperdine University with a B.A., completing two majors: Art and Religion. He went on to earn the Master of Divinity degree from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. The views expressed on this blog are personal and belong to Joel Solliday unless otherwise stated. They are not, intended to characterize the views of the Lewiston Church of Christ or other organizations to which I may refer.

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