Thursday, December 10, 2015

Helping or Hurting?

Once you have your preparations well underway, or maybe just as complete as you can get, you may get an opportunity to assist someone else. It could be before, during, or after a crisis, but the opportunity may occur.

What's the old saying? "If you build a man a fire he'll be warm for a night, but if you set a man on fire he'll be warm for the rest of his life." 

No, wait. It's fish, not fire: "If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day but if you teach a man to fish, he'll feed himself for the rest of his life." That's a good example of helping someone in need, and one of the main reasons we are here five days a week, giving advice and information. We want you to be able to prepare for your own emergencies in life, and not rely on others.

Feeding the hungry, clothing the needy, giving shelter to the homeless, and comforting the afflicted are all forms of charity. Those of us who are Christians have an obligation to help our fellow man, and many of the other religions have similar expectations of their followers. Helping others is just a generally nice thing to do and often gives a good, "warm" feeling in return. True charity is done for the act itself, not for any hoped for future reward. How much you help others is a personal decision, and in my opinion you should take care of your own family/tribe first before taking on any other problems. If you have surplus and can afford to share, most of us would go for the extra karma/brownie points by helping out someone who is not a threat, but always be aware that in crisis situations, threats can be anywhere. Situational awareness and going with your gut instincts will help you avoid a lot of the threats.

Not Helping
There are situations where giving someone what they are asking for is not helpful. Substance abusers come to mind: they will beg, plead, promise, and offer anything in order to get their next dose of whichever poison they're addicted to. The more addicted they are, the further they will go to get a "fix". Giving an alcoholic a bottle of wine or a fifth of whiskey may get them to shut up for a day, but there's an excellent chance they'll be back the next day with the same litany of excuses and begging for another bottle. Your charity did them no good; it just got them out of your hair for a short while.

Harder drugs like meth and heroin are likely to bring out violence and theft if needed to get the next hit. Withdrawl from serious alcohol abuse, meth, heroin, and a host of other drugs is not a pleasant thing to watch, and is a form of hell to go through. If you have any medical training at all, I would suggest looking into training on the signs of addiction and possible ways to deal with it. Unless you have access to Narcan, Antabuse, Methadone, or another specific drug needed to treat the specific addiction, you're in a bad place if you're stuck with an addict who is out of their drug of choice. Caffeine and nicotine addiction are more common problems, but they are also easier to wean off of. Coffee and tobacco are also legal, and store fairly well. Listen to Erin's podcast segment on this topic for more information.

There is a third class of "helping": enabling. If you live with or deal with someone who has an addiction problem, you have to watch yourself and your actions to ensure that you are not enabling or supplementing their problems. It doesn't matter if it is an eating disorder (bulimia, anorexia, overeating, etc.), an activity or behavior (sex, sports, anything short of true OCD) or a drug problem; having someone who makes life easier for the addict is helping sustain and continue the addiction.
  • Are you making excuses for them? 
  • How about making sure they have the basics covered, allowing them to spend everything on their addiction? 
  • Are you joining them in their addiction? 
If you answered "yes" to any of these, you may be enabling their behavior. Under normal circumstances, they will never quit until they want to quit. You are not helping unless you are doing things that will make them want to quit.

Tough Love
This term has fallen out of favor in today's culture. Using the principles of Tough Love, you have to be able to harden your heart and do the things necessary to get the addict off of the things/activities that are destroying their lives. Sometimes the best thing you can do for an addict is to make them face their addiction and then help them fight their way out of it.

I generally support helping others, as long as it is truly helping them. Don't put yourself at risk to help too much (unless you're looking to add "martyr" to your resume) and take care of those in your family/tribe before reaching out to strangers. Don't make the mistake of "eating your seed corn"; always have something set aside to use as a base for developing more in the future.

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