Helping by Not Hindering
J. R. Miller
There are people who only hinder others. Instead of lightening their burdens, they add to them. Instead of being a comfort, they are a constant trial to their friends. Instead of giving cheer, they give disheartenment. They make life harder for others, rather than easier. When such people would heed the counsel, "Bear one another's burdens," the first thing they must learn to do—is to help by not hindering. If they will do this, even though they give no positive help, they will be of much service to those who know them. They will at least cease to be a burden to others, will cease to discourage and dishearten, will cease to impede and tax their friends.
There are a great many hinderers. There are those who are always seeing the dark side. No matter how bright a thing may be, they are sure to find a gloomy view of it. You may paint your hope in most radiant colors—but they will blotch it all with black when they come to look at it. They are always seeing difficulties in the path, lions in the way. They do nothing but prophesy evil, and find out and foretell difficulties and obstacles in the way of others.
Such people are grievous hinderers. They chill ardor and quench enthusiasm in all those whose lives they touch. Nobody feels quite happy after meeting them; for they manage, even a moment's hurried greeting, to say some cheerless word which leaves an unpleasant impression that one cannot shake off. You try to say some pleasant things—but they spoil it by some unfavorable comment. You speak of some bright expectations—but they have a doubt ready to darken your clear sky with clouds. You refer to some difficult task before you, which you purpose to accomplish, not thinking of failure; but your hindering friend is prompt with suggestions which make you feel that you are not competent to its doing, and when you part from him you have lost your courage and hope, and perhaps you abandon the undertaking which you might otherwise have achieved.
So these people live to make life a little harder for all whom they meet. It is impossible to estimate the influence which they exert in retarding, discouraging, and hindering their fellows. This is a miserable and sinful use to make of one's influence to others. Life is hard enough, at best, for everyone; and he who needlessly causes it to be harder for any person—is guilty of wrong to his fellow-man. Instead of making life's load heavier, and the spirit less brave for duty, we should seek to lighten a little of everyone's burden, and to put fresh hope and courage into everyone's heart. We ought at least—to cease to hinder!
We can never know what the final result of a discouraging influence may be. When the Israelites were on the edge of the land of promise, ten men came back with a disheartening story of fierce warriors and great giants, and by their cowardly and unbelieving report they started a wild panic of terror among the people. The end of it all was forty years' wandering in a wilderness, and the death there of a whole generation. One discourager may always do immeasurable harm—turning courage to fear, hope to despair, and strength to weakness, joy to sorrow—in many lives. One gloomy prophet, ofttimes retards the progress and hinders the prosperity of a whole community.
These dishearteners will do a great service to those who know them—if they will simply cease hindering! Of course, this is only a negative way of helping others; and if the same people would throw all their influence into the other side of the scale, becoming inspirers and strengtheners of others, they would do incalculably more for the good of the world. Yet even this negative helping by not hindering would prove a blessing to many lives, although no positive help were thereby given.
Another class of hinderers consists of those who are unnecessarily laying their burdens on others. They have trained themselves into such a condition of dependence, that they can scarcely take a step alone. They want to advise with all their friends, and get a symposium of counsel on everything they do. At the first indication of difficulty or trouble—they fly to someone for help. In cases of real trial, they break down altogether, and have to be carried through on the strong arms of unselfish friends. They are a constant burden to those upon whom they call for sympathy and aid.
Of course, there are cases of real weakness which give one a right to lean on stronger arms, and to be helped and borne along by those who are abler and wiser. No true father or mother ever blames a little child for its helpless dependence, nor regards it as a hinderer of its parents in their life. Nor does anyone with a right heart find fault with those who through disease or misfortune, are unable to toil for themselves or to bear their own burdens, and who must therefore depend on others for support. Nor, again, does anyone grow impatient with the dependence which sorrow or bereavement produces. When one is overwhelmed with grief or crushed by some calamity, there is no Christian man or woman who is not eager to extend sympathy in whatever practical form it may be required. All stand with gentle heart, before human weakness and human need, and are glad to bear the burdens of those who cannot bear their own.
But there are many who are neither little children, nor invalids, nor victims of great sorrow and trial—who yet insist on laying on others the loads which belong to themselves. In this way they also become hinderers instead of helpers. They think that they believe in the inspired lesson, "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ"; but they get only one side of it, availing themselves of its privileges in their need, without ever putting themselves under its requirement on themselves. They believe in others bearing their burdens—but they have no thought of bearing the burdens of others. The other burden-text, "Every man shall bear his own burden," they seem to be wholly ignorant of.
There are loads which none of us have a right to shift to others shoulders, than our own. We have no right to ask others to take their time to attend to our affairs, when we are quite able to attend to our own affairs. We have no right to expect others to solve our little perplexities, and help us bear our little trials, and sympathize with us in our little disappointments, when we are just as strong for these burdens as our friends are. We ought to cultivate self dependence, to think and plan for ourselves, to meet our own questions, to do our own work with our own hands. Especially should we shrink from needlessly becoming a burden to those who love us, or who are patient enough to be willing to help us. We should at least seek to help our friends, by not hindering them unnecessarily with our cares. We should learn the gospel of self-help even if we do not get into our life the other hemisphere of Christian duty—the unselfish side of brotherly help.
And there are many other hinderers rather than helpers of others. There are those who hinder others by the inconsistencies of their own lives, and by the wrong examples they set. There are those who hinder by their ugly tempers, by their selfishness, by their greed, by their thoughtlessness, by their lack of heart, by their ambition and their pride. There are those who hinder, even when they try to help, by their lack of delicacy and tact. There are many who try to comfort others, who only make worse the hurt which they would heal. If it were possible to eliminate all the needless hindering of others there is in people's lives—this alone would add a large volume to the total of the world's happiness. Then if all the hinderers could be made to be helpers, a social millennium would have already dawned. Let all of us do our part to usher in that day. At least, let us have a care to help by not hindering.