Lessons from a Bug - When Helpfulness Isn’t Helpful
Juliana has an affinity for all animals, including bugs, large or small. She will lie on the ground to closely examine them, usually commenting, “Oh, look, it is so cuuute!” She displays kindness to spiders, centipedes, ants, beetles and assorted flying insects.
Juliana and her Grampy were in the pool for a swimming lesson. There was a moderately-sized bug at the edge of the pool, appearing to struggle. Juliana spied him. “Grampy – we have to save the bug!” Being a wise man, Grampy instructed Juliana to avoid touching the obviously distressed insect. “But,” she protested, “We have to save him!” Grampy found a kickboard, scooped up the bug and carried it to a hedge near the edge of the pool deck, with Juliana in hot pursuit. With the lightning quick reflexes of a child, Juliana reached down to offer a comforting pat to the bug. Her little world of caring and compassion was shaken to the core when the ungrateful creature bit her fingertip. Juliana learned an important lesson.
Even though she was trying to be helpful, the bug perceived otherwise.
This situation repeats itself daily in the human world. Have you ever watched a co-worker struggle with an assignment, and felt the overwhelming urge to jump in with unsolicited help? If you did, you may have experienced an unexpected response. You might have been branded as a know-it-all, bossy or over-controlling. “But,” you sigh,” I’m just trying to help you!” Maybe you’ve had a similar experience at home. Family members just can’t get it right – whatever “it” may be – and you jump in with well-meaning suggestions. “Basil would be better than thyme.” “The sheet will stay tucked in if you do the corners this way.” “If you avoid soda, you’ll feel much better.”
While humans rarely reach out and sting as Juliana’s bug pal did, an unsolicited attempt to save is often
misinterpreted. In turn, the other party responds defensively “Don’t tell me what to do!” “Do you think I’m dense?” “Why do you always have to do everything for me?” The situation escalates and in the end, no one is happy.
Sometimes, in an effort to save others, we help no one.
The next time you feel a need to rescue a coworker or family member, take a step back. Assess the situation. Is your advice desired or even needed? If you believe it is, check your gut by asking “Is there honestly anything I can do that truly will help?”
Sometimes, people - and bugs - fare best when given a chance to figure things out on their own.