The Lord has been teaching me not to give unsolicited advice or help, but I recently gained a deeper insight into this from something I read in The Feeling Good Handbook by David D. Burns, M.D. He gave three questions for us to ask ourselves when we want to help someone. One of those is: Is the person really asking for my help?
I have a tendency to shift into problem-solving mode when someone complains about something. I have been very guilty of this with our adult disabled son. But I’m learning that many times all he’s looking for is an empathetic ear. I learned from my reading that if the person is not really asking for help, my attempts may feel intrusive and controlling to them, not helpful.
Another area where I’ve been guilty of offering unasked-for help is with my husband. One day, Tom was working on a stream pump in our yard. I asked how it was going, then I asked if he’d like me to call the repairman. Tom said, “Let me try to fix it first.” I said “OK.” As I came indoors, the thought came to me that my offer probably made Tom feel like he was inadequate in my eyes. That was not how I was feeling–I respect him regardless of whether or not he can repair something–but I could see how it might have come across that way to him. (When I asked him later, he confirmed that my insight had been correct.) After awhile, Tom asked me to look for the repairman’s card. Then I was being helpful when I found it!
It is OK to ask if there is anything I can do to help, but then I must wait for them to tell me what they want. If I truly want to be helpful, I must wait until I understand how I can be!