Choosing Assistance


Image: Damian Gadal

By Peg Ryan
Mile High Pilates and Yoga
March 12, 2017

There are times in all of our lives when we need a little help from our friends.  Yet some of us have a hard time acknowledging that.

Last week I was talking with a friend who was commenting on the struggle she was encountering with some home repair projects she was trying to complete on her own.  Any of you who have attempted something similar, especially after the loss of someone you relied on to do these things, will recognize the dilemmas these tasks present.  It can seem like an overwhelming chore looming over you like a black cloud. You find yourself succumbing to the procrastination mantra:  I’ll do this when ________.  Fill in the blank with any mythic event in the nebulous future that will somehow enable you to handle this on your own.  As we talked, we both wondered why it was so hard to accept that sometimes you just can’t do everything all by yourself.  And, in fact, there are times when it is better not to even try.

Our culture has ingrained in us this mythical idea that self-sufficiency is the ultimate noble goal.  We need to be strong and face all of our challenges by ourselves.  This concept seems to be in our national DNA.  In fact, our society carries it to such an extreme that we get upset with people who we perceive as “not carrying their own weight”.  You can see this in the current debates raging around us, particularly when it comes to social services.  Policies are built with rules that will prevent the “undeserving” from obtaining services.  This means that arbitrary moral judgments need to be made about who is or is not deserving.  Sometimes following those rules is so daunting that even the “deserving” can’t get access to services.  Thus everybody complains and nobody benefits.  Somewhere along the line we have lost the sense of community and common good.  Or worse, our sense of community has become so distorted that only certain people are allowed to join.  If they don’t meet the requirements they become outsiders, not worthy of our generosity or even compassion.

This scenario may seem extreme, but I think you all know what I mean.  Still I can hardly profess to having the answers to all of the world’s problems.  One thing I do know, though, is that we can all do a better job of accepting our own limitations.  Sure we’ve all heard stories of people overcoming impossible obstacles to achieve some amazing goal.  Those stories can be inspirational.  But too often we forget that these are the exceptions, not the rule.  When we find ourselves unable to accomplish similar feats we can easily become discouraged, focusing on perceived inadequacies rather than recognizing that we, too, each have our own amazing skills.  Instead we withdraw into our safe little cocoons afraid to let anyone know that we might not measure up to the impossible standards we set for ourselves.  And – yes – we impose these standards on ourselves.  You can try to blame outside circumstances, but ultimately we make our own rules for acceptable behavior.

Let’s all engage in a little thought experiment.  Look back in your own life and try to find at least one achievement or experience you have had in which you accomplished something that you didn’t think you could do.  My guess is you’ll find something.  Probably more than one thing. We have all faced struggles and challenges.  Chances are, too, that each of these has been a learning experience. This is something that the “vulnerability expert” Brene Brown talks about in her speeches and writings.  Her message is that even though we think that putting on a brave face is what is expected of us regardless of how we feel, it actually takes more courage to acknowledge that not being perfect isn’t a measure of self-worth.  In an interview with Krista Tippett on the program “On Being” Ms. Brown said, “the most beautiful things I look back on in my life are coming out from underneath things I didn’t know I could get out from underneath. . . the moments that made me were moments of struggle.”

So needing help on occasion doesn’t mean inadequacy or even failure.  What it means is that each of us has certain gifts, but no one is always good at everything.  We can fall into the trap of thinking that other people have it all figured out, but somehow we missed the boat.  We are obsessed with perfection.  Interestingly, though, perfection itself is in the eye of the beholder.  There is no hard and fast definition of perfection that works for everyone.  I like the Urban Dictionary’s definition: “an impossibility, something unattainable, something that cannot be reached..ever.”  Even the Cambridge English Dictionary defines perfection as “the state of being complete and correct in every way”.  Does anyone know of any person or thing that meets that consistently meets that definition?  Of course not!  And yet somehow we expect it of ourselves.

Here’s another thought experiment:  think of all the times when you have helped someone else.  Usually, you feel good about helping and give your assistance freely.  You feel glad that you were asked for your help.  Why not spread those good feelings around?  When you ask for help you are giving someone else the opportunity to experience those good feelings.  So instead of feeling needy, you can actually feel altruistic.

All of this can, of course, relate to my favorite topic – exercise.  Sadly, I still hear people say that they don’t want to come to a class because they are sure everyone is going to point and stare and laugh because of their inability to be perfect.  There are, of course, many flaws in this viewpoint not the least of which is that everyone starts somewhere and even people with innate abilities were not born experts.  All attempts, no matter how rudimentary, are opportunities for learning.  So give the people around you credit for their willingness to support and help you along your journey, wherever you are on that path.  Accept their help at whatever level it is offered. You might be surprised to learn that none of them is perfect either.

Spiritual Disciplines – Part 3 – Faith 5 with Family

Spiritual Disciplines, Part 3:  Faith 5 with Family

by Rev. Dustin Bartlett

In the final installment of my three-part series on spiritual disciplines, I’ll be telling you about my personal favorite.  At the end of every day, my family and I gather together in our living room for Faith 5™.

Faith 5 is a program designed by Faith Inkubators.  The core idea behind the Faith 5 program is that Sunday School, by itself, is woefully insufficient to instruct young people in the Christian faith.  Faith formation should primarily be taking place in the home, passed from parent to child, as it has for most of the church’s history.  Sunday School is only supposed to reinforce what kids are getting every day at home.

And yet, Faith 5 is about so much more than Christian education.  It brings families together.

So, how does Faith 5 work?  At the end of every day, my family and I get together and go through a five step process.

Step One:  We share our highs and lows for the day.  What made us happy or hopeful?  What made us sad or afraid?  Every member of the family shares their highs and lows.  By starting this practice at a young age, you’re teaching your children that they can come to you with their concerns when they get older – something especially important in the teenage years.

Step Two:  We read a story from the Bible.  In a family with young children (my kids are 8 and 6 years old) we use a story Bible with pictures.  The Whirl Story Bible is especially good.  With older children, you can use a regular Bible.  Reading the Bible is an important habit for both kids and adults to start up.

Step Three:  We talk about the Bible story we just read, especially as it might relate to our highs and lows.  If you’re worried about your ability to talk about the Bible, check out last week’s article on Bible study here.

Step Four:  We pray for each other’s highs and lows.  Everyone in the family takes turns leading the prayers.  Some nights the parents say the prayers.  Some nights the kids say the prayers.  Trust me, parents, there is nothing so emotionally rewarding or powerful as having your six year old pray for you!

Step Five:  We bless each other.  Each of us traces the sign of the Cross on the forehead of the other three, and says, “God bless you and keep you.”  This is the kids’ favorite part.

By using the Faith 5 process, you teach your children the stories of the Bible, teach them to pray and study the scriptures regularly, teach them to share what’s going on their lives with their parents, and perhaps most importantly, in our frantic-paced society you teach your children that they are worth your time to just sit down and be together.