Helping Without Hurting

UG Charleston47

I went to the grocery store and as I was leaving, there was a bottleneck of people trying to get out the door. As I trooped through trying to avoid nailing some poor soul in the Achilles tendon with my cart, I realized what the problem was: a woman was blocking half the walkway directing shoppers out. The big rug wasn’t lying completely flat and there was a bump since the edge was folded under. The lady had decided that this was a safety hazard and was telling everyone to watch their step while trying to direct traffic around the mat. She was saying she had called one of the employees to rectify the situation.

I looked twice. Yup. She was telling a store clerk he needed to fix the mat while trying to tell everyone how to exit the store… through the exit. Irony.

She could have just fixed the mat herself. She didn’t even have to touch it or bend over. She could have unfurled it with a toe and gone along her way. Instead, she blocked the door, created a traffic jam, and made someone else come do it. Just because it wasn’t her job.

And yet, I couldn’t help get the feeling that she felt like she was doing something good from the way she motioned to everyone and the way she was instructing the bemused clerk.

And I felt convicted. I try to be a servant and make a difference in the lives of people around me, but this incident made me wonder if what I am doing is really helping.

We can hurt when we try to help. Sometimes, we make more work for those we are trying to serve. Sometimes, we actually cause damage. If we do what we think is best without really understanding the situation, what is done might actually be contrary to the needs of those we are serving.

But we think, “I was trying to help! I was serving!” But, why are we serving? Is it to truly make a difference? Or is it to be seen serving?

Pointing out what needs to be done isn’t really serving. It is leadership and this world has far too many leaders and not nearly enough servants. We might think we are doing something good, but really, we are just in the way.

Serving isn’t celebrated in culture is because it isn’t glamorous. Nobody wants to take on jobs with no visibility or recognition. Yes, recognition feels good, but we should be serving for an audience of One and He doesn’t really care what everyone else thinks. He cares about our hearts.

I also thought about how often I only want to serve when it’s easy. I was incredibly scared when we first became foster parents since this kind of service isn’t easy or even controllable. God gently laid it on my heart though that this is we needed to do because…

It isn’t serving if it doesn’t cost us anything.

Gifts always have a cost and serving is a simply a gift we give to God through our actions. It costs us our time, energy, effort, and often our hearts. We think of these things as ours although they are really all God’s in the first place; He has simply entrusted them to us.

It isn’t using them wisely when we are too wrapped up in ourselves to see that we are in the way with our attempts at serving. We become a barrier rather than a doorway to Christ.

When we are too wrapped up in ourselves, we tend to think more highly of ourselves than we ought and think some jobs are beneath us.That is apparently what the lady thought. It was too much fun to be the leader and tell everyone else what to do. She wasn’t even aware in her apparent egoism that she was the main problem in the mess.

But, Jesus never did this. He had more right than anybody to demand others serve Him yet took on the lowly job of washing the disciples’ feet. In the first century, this was a disgusting, dirty job meant for a slave because everyone wore sandals and walked in filthy, refuse laden streets. It wasn’t a job for a king and yet, our King did it.

If my King can do that, I can get out of my own proverbial doorway and do what needs to be done for Him, quietly and humbly. Anything else becomes a stumbling block for everyone else. The only thing that needs to be left at the door is our egos. When we really see God for all that He is worth, we see how small we really are and how much joy there is in serving, truly serving, Him.


44 thoughts on “Helping Without Hurting

  1. No sure there are too many leaders out there; it seems to me many just are managers and have no idea how to lead. There aren’t very many followers who follow with a heart to honor and serve either. WIth Christ as the model of servant leadership, well, more of us might be willing to pitch in. Servant leadership is important, I believe, in our homes, works places and anywhere else there are people. One person not being aggravated and helping can change the whole atmosphere of a group. It is a hard thing to serve and lead well. It is hard to put it into practice as well. Thank you for sharing your insights. Viisting from MM&M. Happy Monday! Linda

    • Thanks for visiting, Linda! I agree there are a lot of managers out there who don’t know how to lead- I was actually meaning leadership in a worldly sense when I said that we have too many. We “follow” so many people on social media and such and there are people who just want to boss others around- there is a lot of this. It is diametrically opposed to the true leadership we need: servant leadership, like you said and it is definitely transformative, just as Christ is and His example. It is easy to tell people what to do, but as you said, hard to do it yourself as an example while leading people. So important though! Thanks so much for your thoughts!

  2. Good point! I love those moments in our day that make us think and I appreciate people who make me think. Thanks for sharing something to provoke my thoughts today.

    • I do too! I feel like God speaks to me so much through all the little things like this and is constantly calling me to follow Him better. I’m so glad that I could share the lesson He had for me with you! Hope you have a blessed day!

  3. “Serving an audience of one.” I like that thought. I want each effort I make to be marked with the desire to please God. Even if we are serving where others see us we can point our effort to our Heavenly Father to gives us strength. What truth you’ve written here. I’ll be meditating on it today!

    • Thanks so much! God keeps reminding me too that it is all for Him, no matter who sees me do it- He’s been re-focusing me lately 🙂 I’m so glad this was helpful!

  4. Your thoughts were graciously and beautifully expressed. I find that so often I am totally blind to situations like this lady was. She likely thought she was being very helpful, as you pointed out, and yet was only creating a greater problem. I’m grateful for the times The Lord uses situations to refocus my perspective and allow me to see what I couldn’t before. Sometimes that’s not always pleasant, but always good.
    Thanks for sharing.

    • I totally agree and often feel the same way. That’s why this whole situation just jumped out at me- I felt really convicted about it and am thankful how God uses stuff like this to re-focus me. Constantly. As you said, not always fun, but definitely good. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  5. Thank you for spurring us on to good works with your post. You summed up right here: “It isn’t serving if it doesn’t cost us anything.” God has been bringing that thought to mind often recently & I’m hoping to put it even more into practice this school year. I always love visiting your blog & hearing fro you. Blessings!

    • Thanks, Renee! This has been on my heart too and even though we are doing what we are doing, I always feel like I have so much more growth ahead of me. God is so good at refining us. I’m so glad you visited and I love your site too and hearing from you! Always good to connect with you!

  6. A post which gives much to think about. I have often asked myself this question … Would I do it if no one knew I did it or ever acknowledged that I had? If I cannot say “yes” then I know I am doing it with the wrong motivation. Glad to have visited this morning from Quitting Thurs. Blessings!

    • Thanks so much, Joanne! I love the question you ask yourself- I need to start asking that of myself too since that would help distill it down really quickly! Love your thoughts!

  7. I have a couple of takeaways from your beautiful post: “It isn’t serving if it doesn’t cost us anything,” and “Serving an audience of one.” Both have had me sitting here staring at my computer screen for a few minutes contemplating how to be ‘better’ each day.

    Thank you for your well-written words and thank you for allowing me to find them by sharing at the #SHINEBlogHop this morning.

    • Thanks so much, Sarah! I feel the same about needing to work on it each day- I can get so caught up in the mundane that I loose my focus and before I’ve even noticed, I’ve wasted the time instead of being intentional. I really appreciate your thoughts and thanks for visiting!

  8. Many great points – wow. I agree that we sometimes get in our own way with our intentions. Thanks for writing this today, and making me think a little! Blessings.

  9. I loved your post and the illustration that the lady was actually blocking traffic instead of helping. May our eyes be opened and our common sense awakened to do the right thing when it is before us and not hinder progress.
    Thanks for visiting my site. Loved your comments.

    • I’m so glad you stopped by too, Hazel! Great to connect with you! I often pray that I will see things as God does and be able to do the right thing in light of that too- I appreciate your thoughts!

  10. What a wonderful, thought provoking post! I want to comment on everything, but I’ll stick to two.

    Your statement, “If we do what we think is best without really understanding the situation, what is done might actually be contrary to the needs of those we are serving,” is so on target. My husband is the counseling and benevolence pastor at our church. It’s so important to combine the two when people come needing help. If all we do is “pay the utility that’s about to be cut off,” or help financially in some other way without trying to understand the problem or what God is doing in the situation, we can hurt more than help. We help many people inside and from outside our church, but there are times we say “no” for a number of reasons. Sometimes we can get in God’s way by bailing people out of the consequences of their actions over and over.

    I also liked what you said about serving having a cost. You are right that it’s easy to do something to be seen or because it’s easy or convenient for us.

    Thanks for the reminders and for a great devotion. By the way, I visited for the first time from “Simple Moments Stick Faith & Fellowship Bloghop.”


    • Donna, I love your perspective! It is so true that sometimes we need to say no because it doesn’t actually help anything to fix it for people. I’ve seen that with our work in the foster care system too. My husband did some work in Haiti and the organization had a really good plan along those lines too. Dropping a bunch of charity into the situation could make things worse because if they just brought in a bunch of clothes, it would destroy the livelihood of the person who made them and repaired them locally. So important to consider the whole situation! That really opened my eyes up to what truly helping is and not helping for my own psyche. I completely agree with you!
      I’m so glad you stopped by and I love getting to connect with you!

  11. S.L. thanks for linking this at CMB today. I read it earlier this week. The thought I keep having is the people who think they’re helping when they stand around pointing out what they believe is wrong. As a pastor’s wife I know how prevalent that can be in our churches. Truthfully anytime you gather people together. True help is humbling doing. Great thoughts here!

    • Thank you so much, Deb! You are so right that point out what we believe is wrong isn’t actually helping. It is just pointing it out and we need to do something about it- such great wisdom! I’m so glad you stopped by!

  12. Really loved this. Such a great picture of how our big actions can make little difference. God’s been speaking to me about how to become effective at whatever I do. Maximum effort with minimum impact is like ‘running in vain’ or ‘working in the wrong field.’ Thanks for commenting on my blog. Really love reading yours!

    • Love your thoughts about “running in vain”! So true! I feel like we need to be efficient with what God has entrusted us with just like the parable of the Talents. I’m so glad you stopped by- I loved your blog too!

  13. I think this was an excellent post. That little incident at the grocery store was a vivid example and this is something we need to think about whenever we think we are serving…

  14. I think the sentiment behind this post was beautiful, but I wonder where we are these days with saying something. All of those people were cramped up trying to exit the store, but no one said anything to the lady to let her know that she was hurting instead of helping. So, she will probably walk away thinking she did a good thing and yet do it again. When did we stop saying something? Even the simple “Excuse Me” seems to be non-existent. There are at least two times in the last month that I was caught up in my cell phone, blocking traffic. I could feel people staring me down, but they didn’t say a word. When I looked up, I realized I was blocking their way. I felt bad, but I also wondered why they were afraid to just say something so I could move? What I’m saying is that I think most people help while hurting because they don’t know better, and no one is willing to tell them otherwise.

    • You are right about needing to say something sometimes 🙂 I think there is a lot of wisdom in knowing when to say something in love for correction and knowing when to let things go. In this case, the situation wasn’t clear since there were so many people stuck in the crowd and you couldn’t see it until you got out of it. Life can be a lot like that because often we need hindsight to really see what was going on and if we don’t know what is going on, that can put us in the blind reaction category. Secondly, the situation was about to resolve itself because the employee had just arrived and took over. Sorry, I’m totally using this allegorically (amazing how God drops certain situations in our laps to make us think!), but going back probably would have made more of a mess traipsing back through the now oncoming crowd. Yet on the flip side, I think in your situation something could easily and gently be said for the good of all. I think if we fully understand a situation, we do need to intervene speaking the truth in love. I pray that God will give me the wisdom and all of us for that matter to know the difference. You are so right that a simple “excuse me” can go a long way! We need more intentional gentleness like that 🙂 What do you think?

  15. This was so beautiful and thought provoking. Serving shouldn’t just be something we do here and there, it should be part of who we are. Having a servant’s heart means finding everyday opportunities to help others, to show love and kindness, serving when it’s hard, when it costs, when it’s not popular or easy. Thank you for this reminder. And thank you for sharing on Makeovers & Motherhood’s Welcome Party Wednesday Link-Up!

  16. Thank you for sharing this wonderful, thought-provoking article with us at Inspire Me Monday at Create With Joy. I’m excited to share that you are one of our Featured Guests at this week’s party (Week 136).
    Have a wonderful weekend and I look forward to seeing your next contribution! 🙂

  17. The best leaders are those who serve. And yes to people “trying to help” who really just create more work for the person. It’s like when people give your kids a bag of toys that they don’t want/need and now it just means you have more toys to pick up every day/take up space in your house. Thanks for linking up to the HDYDI link up.

    • Thank you! This totally just made my day 🙂 It is so encouraging for me to know that this is helpful and worthwhile for you enough to follow! What is your pinterest name? I’ll follow you back.

  18. “Pointing out what needs to be done isn’t really serving. It is leadership and this world has far too many leaders and not nearly enough servants.”


    I just read somewhere this morning (oh dear, was it one of your posts??) about St. Therese of Lisieux serving just where it was most difficult – seeking to befriend the very one who annoyed her most, doing the menial job no one would notice, and so on. It is so easy for me to see what changes need to be done, and motherhood has taught me the art of delegation, but I am feeling convicted to also be willing to do the small thing that needs to be done, unseen, unrecognized, unappreciated.

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