I recently finished a month-long internship at a bank working in Customer Service. Part of my job entailed asking customers waiting in the queue what they needed specifically to see if I could expedite their wait-time in any way or just answer simple questions. I sat at a desk that wasn’t being occupied by any employee at the time, so when people came up to the waiting area they assumed that not only was I a full-time employee, but I was able to help them with whatever they needed that day. When I first started interacting with customers I would quickly brief them that I’m only an intern and that I don’t even have access to a computer, but after a while I began to have fun with these interactions.
I would walk up to a customer knowing full well I probably couldn’t assist them and allow them to place all their woes and concerns on me. I would listen and appear as attentive as I could, pretending that I understood the bank lingo they were throwing at me. After they were done I’d simply say, “Let me get back to you on that,” or if their inquiry came with a little more attitude than desired I’d bounce back to my summer intern escape method. I found this really entertaining: to be able to place myself in positions I had no qualifications to be in. This experience led me to think about ways outside of this bank that I’ve tried to be more for people than I actually am.
“If I don’t help this person who will?” I implicitly haunt myself with this question time and time again. In high school this meant being available at any time to share answers or explain concepts to my friends, and this tendency spilt over into situations outside of the classroom as well. If someone was being treated unfairly you could have counted on me to let them know what’s going to have to change. I loved being the shoulder to cry on, the confidant and secret-holder to so many. I prided myself on being someone’s safe space. I think for the most part I’ve come with good intentions: a part of me just doesn’t feel comfortable knowing someone else is suffering an arm’s length away. If someone is in desperate need of something, then it only seems like the right and just thing to intervene and come to the rescue.
This idea of being the hero or savior to all is not only harmful to us as well-intentioned people but can be dangerous to those we think we’re helping.
I managed to crack down on three key reasons why I believe this mindset is unfavorable for our collective wellbeing, especially for millennials today.
1. WE FORGET ABOUT OURSELVES
One of the major problems with wanting to be the hero at any given notice is that we choose to disregard the fact that we ourselves need care and comfort too. I can’t count how many times I’ve ignored my own scars and problems to run and patch up somebody else’s. I think during our own struggles, we should be sympathizing with those struggling around us, but the decision to swoop in and save the day sometimes comes with the price of putting our own wellbeing on the backburner. There needs to be a healthy balance between doing the best for yourself and doing the best for those you care about.
I think a lot of us are guilty of stretching ourselves thin with an agenda that didn’t really concern us to begin with.
2. SOMETIMES WE’RE HURTING MORE THAN HELPING
Inviting our opinions and energy into people’s lives can do more harm than good for those that seem desperate for help. The reality is I don’t have an answer for every person’s problem that passes my way, and that’s okay. Heck, I barely have answers for my own problems a lot of time.
Being a true friend to someone doesn’t always mean that you must step in; sometimes stepping back and giving someone the space to process and figure things out can be just as helpful.
Inserting ourselves into people’s issues when uninvited can come with a sense of arrogance or pride in our own compassion or capacity to help, which can corrupt the authenticity of the support we try to bring.
3. THAT’S NOT WHAT WE’RE DESIGNED TO DO
As I thought about a remedy to this save-the-day mentality, I was reminded of a story from the Bible. Jesus and his disciples were at a village being hosted by two sisters, Martha and Mary. Martha was buzzing everywhere trying to prepare and ensuring everything was just right while Mary was simply sitting at the feet of Jesus listening to him talk. It was Martha who made a comment about Mary, asking Jesus why she had been left to do all the work by herself; but, Jesus replied that Mary had been doing what is better. I think we get so caught up about what can be done that we lose focus on what we are really called to do. If we take the time to sit and humble ourselves before Jesus amid all that can be done for others, we’ll be able to listen and respond to Him telling us what will be the best use of our time and energy in whatever season of life we’re in. This will not only ensure that we’re giving ourselves ample time for self-care, but it also ensures that our heart’s longing to serve and love others will be done from a place of integrity and genuine understanding.