The other day I started thinking about the word ask and realized that I have many questions about this three letter word: Who do I ask when I have a need and what am I asking for? If I ask, am I being dependent upon someone else? Is it better to ask or figure it out myself?
Dogs know how to ask better than anyone—we call it begging. They don’t obsess about what’s appropriate, and they don’t care if they’re perceived as weak, dependent or independent. They simply learn the art of communicating; of being in the right place at the right time to flash their irresistible eyes to get the goods. They trust their masters to provide what they need. For human grown ups, it’s not always that simple.
Steven Covey, in his amazing book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, describes our human journey from dependence to independence and then finally to interdependence. A child is born completely dependent upon others. Then, sometimes in a combative way, they go through a stage (which can last several years) saying, “I can do it myself.” Finally, a burst of maturity brings them around to see the benefits of working with others.
Observing a child’s development gives us insight into our own habits. Sometimes we don’t want to ask for help because it makes us feel dependent upon others or we may feel we have to do what they say. Common Hope, is a wonderful organization that works to improve health care, education, housing, and human development in Guatemala. They do amazing “helping” work, yet they place a boundary on their work. They feel it is damaging to do for others what they can do, or learn to do, for themselves.
When we went to Guatemala with Common Hope in 2002, we helped build a home for a family, but only after the mother, father and adult children worked a thousand hours to earn it. And likewise, if we reach out for help to do things we can do for ourselves, not only will it stunt our independence, it will inhibit our confidence. Ideally, as a child matures, a new set of responsibilities, chores and privileges—carefully managed—build that gradual independence necessary to prepare for independent living.
As we mature to a point of knowing what we can and can’t do, we look to others. We admit, with honesty, that we only have a few of the answers, and even though each woman is ultimately responsible for the direction of her life, reaching out for help can enrich the journey, or as Covey would say, we realize we are interdependent.
Assistance can come from friends, family, mentors, technicians, coaches, books, or the Internet. God, or if you like, the Divine, is a great source of assistance and creativity, and we’ll talk about that in a future letter.
When I’m unsure if I’m asking for help from others out of a real need or I’m just being lazy, these questions assist me in discerning what to do next:
Can I do this myself?
Am I spinning in circles when I need to be moving forward?
Is it time to act or wait for clarity?
Would another person’s skills and perspective add to the solution of this task?
Who should I ask?
What should I ask?
Ask is a powerful word. I’m left with the thought that the first person you need to ask when you need help is yourself. Go ahead and beg with the same innocence of a cherished dog. Ask within first and then trust your wisdom to step into the future.
May your self-trust build confidence,