Building Character

Help Me Help You

“Dad I want to run for student council. Can you help me?

Just last week, Ian, my eldest son asked this question at the dinner table. As a writer, I was excited my son wants me to help him for such a momentous occasion. The student council for a fifth grader is a BIG deal. It is like the presidential election for 10 and 11 year old candidates. Winning this event would be life changing based on Ian’s account of its significance.

I will help you with your speech Ian. When do you want to get started?”

His eyes widened and a smile appeared from behind the stern curious look he had when asking his question. Then he screams,

“Let’s do it tonight after dessert!”

See Also: Change can be Beautiful

Helping With The Speech

The moment had arrived. We sat at the table, his tablet in front of him to take notes, my notebook and pencil were in front of me, and I figure I would start the process by asking him the following three simple questions:

1. Why do you want to be on the student council?
2. What will you do as a member of the student council?
3. Why are you the best person to vote for?

These questions were provided to Ian on a small sheet of paper that I slid across the table to him. He looked down at the sheet of paper, I guess expecting a full well written speech, and then looked up at me with absolute disgust.

He reads the questions on the sheet and angrily replies, “I don’t know! You are suppose to help me write this speech.”

Shocked I respond, “So you don’t know why you want to be on student council? What does being on the student council even mean? Why are you even running?”

For 45 minutes we went back and forth with me asking questions and Ian giving politician answers making no progress. Finally he yells in frustration,

“You aren’t even trying to help me!”

I shook my head and replied, “My definition of help may be much different than yours. When you say help I think you mean do it for you. When I say help I mean assist you through the process helping you learn and grow.”

Three days pass and now it is election time. Being the father that I am, who spoils his children, I write the speech the night before the event. He stands in front of the class, with my literary gold written from a 31 year old point of view of fifth grade, recites the words aloud and…loses the election. My words were not what the kids were looking to hear. They wanted to hear from Ian. He lost this election and fell short because he went looking for the wrong type of help and it handicapped his growth.

Seek the Right Type of Help

In our times of deepest need, we often find ourselves asking others for help. It is during these moments that we have to make sure we are seeking the right type of help and not the wrong type of help. Many people are going from situation to situation looking for the type of help that Ian was looking for instead of looking for assistance to learn from the situation and grow from it.

Giving someone the answers to a test will never help them master the material. It only delays the inevitable. There will come a day when the test (situation) will arise again and if you never take the time to learn the lesson, you will be doomed to repeat it.

“There is no use whatever trying to help people who do not help themselves. You cannot push anyone up a ladder unless he is willing to climb himself.” – Andrew Carnegie

Below I have included the difference between the right type of help and the wrong type of help:

Right Type of Help

The act of showing someone how
Giving someone the tools to succeed
Useful Advice

Wrong Type of Help

Doing something for someone without teaching
Hoarding the tools so they will only succeed when you are around
Never having time to develop but only want to give quick solutions
Making people dependent upon you because of something you have that they lack

See Also: Three Reasons to Stop Avoiding Your Problems

The wrong type of help will never move you forward. It will keep you trapped repeating the same scenarios over and over again until you get tired and quit.  The allure of the wrong type of help is that it gives the illusion of time saving. However, all it really does is delay the process. You are going to have to learn how to do what you are avoiding or get used to having that handicap in your life. (Ian still doesn’t know how to write a speech.) Starting today, I challenge you to seek the right type of help in your circumstances and grow.

Father and SonJust the other day my oldest son asked me, “Dad, what should I be when I grow up?”

For a second I stood there pondering what preprogramed response I could give him that was spouted off to me by my parents are teachers during my adolescence.

Stock broker?
Basketball Player?

Personally as a college student I struggled with this question as I tried to choose a major. Then I became a full-fledged adult, after passing the right of passage of utility bills and debt, and noticed that the question no longer mattered. Once the “you owe money” notices started rolling in, it was a lot less about what do you want to be, and more like who will hire me and pay me enough to exceed my massing expenses.

With knowledge of this experience, I looked down at my son, stared in his eyes so intensely that I could envision his future, and responded slowly and thoughtfully,

“I know exactly what you should be when you grow up.”

He stood there like a hungry baby bird waiting for me to feed him with direction and a plan. I opened my mouth slowly and uttered a two word answer that was deeper than his 10 year old mind was ready to comprehend but it was something I meant that will be as unwavering as the seasons.

Ian I want you to…


Continue reading “What Should I Be When I Grow Up?” »

Doubt quote

You can’t do that?
You’re not good enough.
You’re not smart enough.
You don’t have all the skills necessary.
Nobody cares about what you’re doing.
No one believes in you.
No one supports you.
Nobody wants to help you.
What made you think you could do that anyway?
You’re not making any progress.
You’re wasting your time.

“Wow! How do you really feel about me?” I thought as I sat attempting to read a book to fight back the overwhelming emotions that drowned out the words on the pages like an overflowing riverbank. I slowly lifted my eyes from the book, closed the pages, and made my way to stare in the face the person who had the nerve to say such hurtful and demoralizing things. It wasn’t a long walk. In fact it only took a matter of 10 steps to leave my bed and travel to the bathroom where my assailant found refuge. I was speechless. I was livid. I was shocked.

Confronting Doubt

When I finally arrived in the bathroom, I stood in front of the sink, leaned forward, rested the weight of my body on my hands with slumped shoulders, and dropped my chin to my chest. The weight of the world was on me and at that moment I barely had the strength to hold up my 170 pound frame. Using one hand to turn on the cold water, hoping that a splash would take away the sting of the hurtful words, I shifted my weight to my legs and cupped my fingers together to gather the water to soak my face. As the water touched my skin, I could feel the rejuvenating power restoring hope and bringing me confidence. Shocked at the sense of freedom a momentary submersion of my facial features released, I slowly raised my head and eyes to look at the individual who threw insults like pitches during a Major League Baseball game.

The Face of Doubt

It took me a moment to understand what I was looking at. It was not what I expected. It was not who I expected. Instead it was the last person I imagined would say such hurtful things about me. It was me.

As I stood, looking at my shocked and confused face in the mirror, I wondered why is the heart and mind so inherently negative. You see there wasn’t another person in the house. There I was seeking peace in a book and my mind starting attacking me with doubt. Instead of building myself up, I was tearing myself down.

Why? Continue reading “Overcoming Overwhelming Doubt” »

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