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How Asking for Help Breaks Our Shame

Words and Image by Dorothy Greco

My husband works as a pastor. Practically speaking, this means we don’t see much of him between Saturday afternoon and Sunday evening. Our three sons play all manner of sports, predominantly on these same weekends. The only possible way I can accommodate their schedules is to ask lots of other parents for help. And I hate it. By asking, I admit that I am limited. This creates inner turmoil because it seems that everyone else is able to navigate full-time jobs, laundry, groceries, going for a run, walking the dog, and somehow still get their children to games on time. In order to serve my kids, I have to bulldoze my feelings of incompetence. If I get crippled by the shame of asking, we all suffer.

God created us to need. By setting us within families, God makes a way for those needs to be met. When a baby cries to communicate his hunger and an attentive parents scoops him up and offers him sustenance, he learns two essential truths; asking results in needs being met, and, needs connect us relationally.

Along the road from toddlerhood to adulthood, many of us learned a different lesson. I have always been a highly sensitive person. When I played in the sandbox as a two-year old, the feeling of sand scratching against my skin compelled me to ask my mom to untie my navy blue Keds, dump out the sand, and put the sneakers back on. My repeated requests were met with exasperated sighs and annoyed compliance. I interpreted such responses as, “Needing is bad” and ultimately, “I’m bad when I need.”

A quick study, I noticed that when I swallowed my needs, people responded more favorably to me. Rather than ask for aspirin when I had a headache, I climbed on the sink to reach the medicine cabinet and chewed my way through far more orange-flavored pills than our pediatrician would have recommended. Subconsciously, I formulated survival rules that forbade both the display of feelings and admission of need. An unfortunate consequence emerged from my attempt to be totally independent–I gradually came to despise neediness.

It took twenty years of marriage, three babies, and a health crisis for me to unlearn this lesson. The diagnosis at age forty-one of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue helped me to understand that not only did I have needs, but God approved of them and wouldn’t let me continue without tending to them. Though the specifics of my story might be unique, I have sat with enough men and women to know many of us struggle to understand and be at peace with the role that needs play in our lives. While most of us might be willing to privately acknowledge our weaknesses and needs, far too often, shame, fear, and pride prevent what should be a natural tendency to ask for help.

The Scriptures give us copious examples of individuals (and nations) who boldly expressed their needs: the persistent widowthe woman with the issue of blood, and the Gentile woman with the possessed daughter, among others. To bring this message home, Jesus said to the disciples, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.”

The next time you feel overwhelmed or needy, take a cue from a two-year old and ask. Shamelessly. God will be pleased and typically, others will be more than willing to help.

Since graduating from Boston University in 1983, Dorothy has worked as a photographer, journalist, home-schooling mom, and pastor. A rather eclectic combination which actually reflects the diversity of her soul. You can connect with Dorothy's words and images at www.dorothygreco.com.