Don’t Pity People. Empower Them.

Don’t Pity People. Empower Them. December 31, 2017

Ever tried to help someone, only to find that the help is not appreciated?

It’s a classic scenario. You give someone something you have. You sacrifice yourself to them. You go out of your way to give them some of the essentials that they need, and you expect appreciation

But instead of appreciation, eventually you get resentment. Or maybe, over time, you start to feel used.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this, and I think I’ve noticed a common denominator in these situations. Most of the time, when they happen, the person doing the helping was helping for largely selfish reasons. They were helping because they were thinking about themselves.

Here’s a basic principle to keep in mind: Helping someone because you want to pity them emphasizes positive aspects in you. Helping someone because you want to empower them emphasizes positive aspects in them.

Early on, before the person knows that you’re pitying them and not trying to empower them, they may accept your help. Hell, they may even ask for it or seek it out. People need the essentials, and they want things beyond those essentials, so if pity gets it, they’ll embrace pity. But over time, another emotion will develop under the surface. Sooner or later they’ll see that all the stuff you’re giving them seems designed to show yourself, them, and/or others how incredible of a person you are in comparison to them. They’ll be able to see this because, in spite of all you give them, you never seem to empower them to reach their own goals.

Yes, pity may get you a cup of water, but sooner or later you’ll resent it when you notice that you’re being kept perpetually thirsty so that someone else can have the pride of getting you water. I don’t know how it all works; logically, if you receive something from somebody, you should be able to use it to benefit your overall position and get ahead. But somehow, pity always seems to work that way — like people in a work camp, you end up being given just enough to keep you working to uplift the superior position of the other person, but not enough to be successful yourself.

Pity will get you a cup of water at the expense of your dignity…but empowerment is different. No, empowerment is obviously not coming from the person who lets you die of thirst; rather, it will satisfy your thirst by helping you build your first well.

Ideally, parents don’t pity their children. They empower their children to reach their dreams. And that’s what empowerment means among us grown-ups too.

Someone who is trying to empower you will give you what you want so that they can give you the tools for you to get what you want on your own.

Empowerment requires understanding, because you have to understand what somebody wants — without undue judgment — in order to work on giving them their own access to what they want. A focus on empowerment requires more of a relationship, because needs and desires change. And it requires knowledge of how to empower someone given the tools and confines of their specific situation.

And when you’re done empowering somebody and you find that they no longer need you…you don’t feel peeved. You don’t feel put out. You feel accomplished, like you’ve succeeded in the goal you’ve been striving for all along.

The ironic thing here is that focusing on empowering people actually inadvertently makes you feel more valuable than focusing on pity. Unlike pity, which makes you feel valuable in comparison to the person you help, empowerment will make you feel valuable due to the value within the person you help.

Never help someone because you see them as an inferior. Help them because you respect their value and their potential — not as you tyrannically define it, because that’s controlling them, not helping them. Keep an eye out for those glimmers of value the person sees in themselves, and relish them.

You’ll find that this is a thrill that creates a stunningly drop-dead-gorgeous world. It’s an adrenaline rush that makes you and other people happy, enhancing mutual well-being.

Make the world a better place, and try it.

Thank you for reading.

PS: Thank you to all 33 of the patrons who made this blog post possible.


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