I scrolled through my “newsfeed” on Facebook and came upon one of those memes that is also an informal poll. It was posted by one of my cousins, therefore I knew it was not one of those phishing expeditions by hackers that are so common on social media. It asked, “Which is hardest for you to say? 1. I love you 2. I was wrong, I’m sorry 3. I need help”.
I pondered the meme for a few seconds then typed “3” in the comment box. I slowly scrolled through the other comments and saw that most people responded with “3”. There were a few people who typed “2 and 3” and a couple of folks typed “1 and 3”. However, overall, the most difficult thing for the respondents of the informal poll showed that asking for help is the most difficult thing to say.
Although I expected more people to say it’s most difficult to apologize, I wasn’t surprised that it’s harder to ask for help. After all, we have been socialized by religion and family that it is virtuous and best to be self-reliant. We are advised to offer help and assistance, not ask for it. Asking for help is looked down upon in our modern culture.
One of the respondents typed more than just a “3”, he added that he’s too egotistical to ask for help. The Facebook “friend” was spot on. We might be reluctant to request help because we’re too proud to ask for it. The silly cliché of a male driver not wanting to stop and ask directions to a destination is an example of this tendency. If one does not have GPS or if the GPS device is unreliable, we save a lot of time and frustration if we just ask for directions. Most folks are glad to help.
When you think about this a little longer, when we stop to ask directions, we’re giving someone else a chance to be virtuous and extend a helping hand. In other words, you’re allowing a stranger to be a little bit better person. That’s kind of a big deal. So, by asking for directions, the other person helps you locate your destination and you bring out the other person’s virtuous helpful nature. This is a display of mutual cooperation.
On the larger, historical scale, we notice that the rulers who stubbornly refrained from asking for help and advise usually lost their empires and lives in the long run. After all, know-it-alls are not only annoying, their pride is a screen that obscures wisdom. Pretending to be an expert generally hinders the acquisition of actual knowledge. The leaders who employed a cabinet of advisors and consulted them about difficult problems of state, usually succeeded or at least are looked upon favorably by historians.
Strangely enough, the strongest people are those who are not too proud to request assistance. This is not to say that we should not put forth effort and ask others to do our work for us; that’s laziness. Asking for help that is necessary, is part of working together. The solution to a big problem might be found simply by asking someone to help.
True Renaissance women and men are very rare in society. Even Leonardo da Vinci sometimes asked for help. After all, at one time, he was an artist’s apprentice. Most importantly, da Vinci had to request commissions from the city of Florence, Italy. He also needed financial help from benefactors such as Duke Ludovico Sforza. We need to remember that da Vinci employed apprentices and students. The extent of collaboration with these assistants is not clear. In the case of his “apocryphal” masterpieces, scholars do not agree about the extent of the associates’ contributions to them.
I’m glad for that simple Facebook meme. It triggered some self-reflection and analysis. It reminded me that it’s OK to ask for help when needed.