The One Thing We All Need (But Hate to Ask For)

I was drowning.

For a couple of months last autumn, on Wednesday afternoons, my three kids had a meeting for the school newspaper, musical rehearsal, swim lessons, dance class, art class, and basketball practice. And my wife was working. While I like to pretend that I can do everything, sometimes all it takes is a Wednesday afternoon to remind you that you are not, actually, God.

So, on a Wednesday afternoon, I asked for help.

I asked one of our new friends in town—whose kids also attend some of the same activities as our kids—if he could take our daughters to dance class together. An hour later, we were both picking up kids at art class when I offered to get the girls from dance. He declined. For some reason, it made me feel anxious, so I asked again. He looked back at me with a twinkle in his eye and said, “No thanks, I want you in my debt.”

I want you in my debt.

Poet and author David Whyte writes,

Help is strangely, something we want to do without, as if the very idea disturbs and blurs the boundaries of our individual endeavors, as if we cannot face how much we need in order to go on.

To need help is to be human. To embrace our need for help is to embrace our worthiness—to know that while we are not strong enough to be without needs, we are still good enough when we are in need.

But to ask for help?

To ask for help is to be vulnerable—to hand our fragile sense of worthiness to someone else and entrust them with it. To ask for help is to test the foundation of our belonging—to trust that our people will keep us around, not only when we are helpful to them, but also when we are helpless before them.

To ask for help is to be indebted to others for the life we are trying to live.

 Every transformation has at its heart the need to ask for the right kind of generosity…[this] vulnerability is the very door through which we must pass in order to open the next horizon of our lives.

Help is a door someone holds open for us, and walking through it requires great courage, because any door you can walk into is also, always, a door you can be kicked out of. It takes courage to come to the end of ourselves and ask to borrow someone else’s strength for a while.  

 We are born with an absolute necessity for help, grow well only with a continuous succession of extended hands, and as adults depend upon others for our further successes and possibilities in life…Even the most solitary writer needs a reader…

What do you need help with in your life right now? Who will you ask for help? Whose doorway will you walk through? What debt will you have the courage to create? Don’t wait. The asking doesn’t get any easier with delay; the need only grows larger. And remember: to be human is to be in need.

Life is a continuous succession of helping hands.

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In his debut novel, Kelly weaves a page-turning, plot-twisting tale that explores the spiritual depths of identity and relationships, amidst themes of healing, grace, faith, forgiveness, and freedom.

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About Kelly

Dr. Kelly Flanagan is a psychologist, author, consultant, and speaker who enjoys walking with people through the three essentials of a truly satisfying life: worthiness, belonging, and purpose. His blog writings have been featured in Reader’s Digest, The Huffington Post, The 5 Love Languages, and the TODAY Show. Kelly is the author of Loveable and True Companions.