Newsletter 572 – Why Do People Helpers and Leaders Resist Help for Themselves?

Most people at work [including counselors, pastors and students]…divert considerable energy every day to a second job that no one has hired them to do: building and preserving their reputations, putting their best selves forward, and hiding their inadequacies from others and themselves. We believe this is the single biggest cause of wasted resources in nearly every company [and organization] today.

Helping 1This quotation is taken from a contemporary business magazine. The article argues that it is best for an organization and for individuals to face this reality and find ways to get help and even turn their struggles into growth opportunities. Set this against a major article in Monitor on Psychology (April 2014). Researchers focused on psychologists who spend their days helping others but neglect to care for themselves. The result is a high incidence of burnout, depression, vicarious traumatization and compassion fatigue. And that’s not limited to professional therapists and graduate students.

What deters people like you and me from getting needed help? The answers are not surprising: social stigma, fear of emotion, resistance to self-disclosure, and difficulty admitting personal distress. For some it is lack of time and resources, difficulty finding a therapist who will keep quiet, resistance to going to a colleague or former student, concerns lest revealing personal stress can adversely impact one’s professional reputation. There’s even a sense that getting help might not do any good.

Nevertheless, the Monitor researchers found that the outside help was effective and valued among most of those who’d had the courage to reach out. Getting help for personal problems benefits personal and professional effectiveness. Organizations, church boards and academic institutions can help by making resources available and encouraging growth through therapy and coaching. Some research even suggests that companies benefit when they encourage their employees to seek available assistance. For individuals it may be best to talk with a friend or mentor who can be trusted. When these resources are not available maybe you can find a helper who does not know you. Whatever we do, it rarely works to handle these things alone. The Bible emphases repeatedly that we need each other. Lone-rangers often self-destruct.

It would be good to  hear how others have benefited from counseling or coaching, or what you’ve learned about helping others get needed help. Please comment.


  1. “Social stigma, fear of emotion, resistance to self-disclosure, and difficulty admitting personal distress.”
    Those are the standard sins attributed to all who resist paying fees to professionals.
    May I propose some other points of resistance that I have held or have heard from others?
    * Expense and loss of time for very little return.
    * Politically-driven administrators who require therapy for you in order to mark you as an offender.
    * Being forced by law to take psychotropic drugs that classify you as ineligible for some state license or another.
    * Holding values that some therapists’ subculture discounts.
    * Being bombarded daily by all kinds of doubtful promises to make your life better.
    * Therapy was the hope of the 20th century middle class, and look where is has got us.
    * To avoid being made into a nice, quite, grinning wimp.
    Maybe there is a difference of superficial and deeper causes?


  2. I’ve benefited immensely from processing family of origin issues, and the internal stuff that makes me “me.” Not all counselors help all the time, but with prayer and seeking, I’ve usually been able to find a helpful one at the time I needed one. Counseling can help us grow as people. If we don’t deal with our inner ‘stuff’ we hurt ourselves and others, and cut into our effectiveness in the social environment and workplace. And on what basis should we be so proud as to let our stuff, we could have dealt with, hurt others?


  3. I am a professional coach and have also benefited greatly from coaching by others. In addition to that I have found that engaging regularly with a spiritual partner or “comrade in arms” is a key spiritual discipline and crucial to dealing with all of life’s issues. I agree, we weren’t meant to go it alone. “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17) We need to “spur one another on” to deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. I wouldn’t be without a comrade in arms!


  4. The hardest thing is knowing who to talk to. However, a good listener is often a release valve and I do think this in turn makes me a better listener. Still learning this one.


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