Religion News Service: In-depth. Impartial. Engaged.

Blogs » Jana Riess - Flunking Sainthood

Flunking Sainthood has moved: Click here to read the latest posts

What Not to Say, Part 3: To Someone Offering You Help


By Alison Hodgson

In the wake of almost any crisis a crowd forms around those affected. This crowd can be narrowed down into two categories: those you are glad have rushed to your aid and those you would rather stayed home…forever. The first group is full of heroes and champs, but the second can be further broken down into the chronically self-absorbed, Stupid People with Good Intentions, and your garden-variety jugheads.

When you are going through a rough time it is so easy to be overwhelmed. Perhaps you are sick, maybe someone you loved has died, you might be going through a divorce. And, instead of helping, the people around you are poking sticks in your eyes. The jugheads are asking intrusive questions, the chronically self-absorbed are telling you long stories about the death of their cats, and the Stupid People With Good Intentions are piling on the platitudes.

And then a hero or champ shows up. Maybe he wants to bring you a meal or she has offered to clean your house. Without even thinking you say,



You probably say it more diplomatically,

“Oh, thank you so much, but I’m OK.”

Are you kidding me? You are so far from OK I want to shake you, but we all do this.

A few months ago a friend of mine was awaiting surgery to have a complete hysterectomy. A biopsy was also planned, as cancer was suspected. My friend had been in debilitating pain for months and was trying not to freak out about her long-term health.  Many of her friends were following her progress from a distance on Facebook, some of us praying and all of us offering encouragement as well as we could. A couple days before the surgery she put on her status,

“Exhausted. One day to get everything done and maybe get house clean enough to have a visitor. It’s really bad.”

We all knew the “visitor” was coming to take care of her following surgery. Comments began flooding in that essentially told her to sit down and relax.

She responded, “I guess I’m not good at getting help! Are any of us?”

For the most part, no, we’re not.

When my house burned down, it was still in flames, I only had the clothes on my back, which were pajamas, and I thought, “We’re fine!”

A friend called the Red Cross because she knew I wouldn’t. I didn’t think we needed their help. “We have insurance! We have savings!” That we no longer had a home for the Red Cross to come to should have been the first clue that we needed all the help we could get, but I was riding high on shock and adrenaline...and pride.

To acknowledge that you aren’t in control, even temporarily, is scary and humbling. To surrender to your need for help requires honesty and courage. But it’s so uncomfortable.

And yet the Bible says it is more blessed to give than to receive. Happiness researchers definitely agree on the benefits of giving. Study after study shows that doing acts of kindness for others elicits feelings of happiness and even improves the health of the giver.

When we reject help and support we aren’t simply denying ourselves. We withhold from others the deep rhythms of giving and receiving, of mercy and gratitude. We keep them at arm’s length from grace.

In the early days after our fire, when I cried, it wasn’t because of what we lost. What made me weep was the goodness and extraordinary generosity of so many. The giving was so great and I was so weak, I couldn’t withstand it. And in losing everything, I finally learned to receive.

Now, let me teach you. When you are next in need and someone offers assistance, this is what you say:

“Thank you. Thank you.”

Tags: accepting help from others, alison hodgson, flunking sainthood, giving and receiving, jana riess, what not to say


  1. So beautifully written!  Having had some personal crisis in my life, it’s easier and maybe expected to smile and agree that God will provide ... His eye is on the sparrow ... I’ll be given no more than I can handle…. and so on.  What made me finally crumble was someone who brought a meal and cried with me. No quick fixes.  Honest empathy.  Just what was needed.

Sign In

Forgot Password?

You also can sign in with Facebook or Twitter if you've connected your account to them.

Sign In Using Facebook

Sign In Using Twitter