Blog Post: When Helping Hurts ("I'm not giving you s**t!") / by Shanelle Gabriel

I had a discussion with a friend of mine about how he was getting tired of his family members. He is a semi-successful comedian, touring nationally and internationally along with other household names. He's been on BET as well as Comedy Central. He hasn't made it, but he's definitely doing his thing. To listen to his story was inspiring, but apparently when his family hear the story, they hear "Cha-Ching!" He said his brother told him, "Yo, people keep telling me since you're on TV and doing your thang that I should have more." He explained to him, "You said the magic words: I'M the one on TV. What the heck have you done for yourself?"

While many people can't say that they're a celebrity with family and friends all rushing to be down with the entourage, many, if not all, of us have people we know that seem to always have a hand out. They always need "some money to carry them through" or "just a lil favor." They seem to always be WORKING on fixing their situation, but nothing ever materializes. They have POTENTIAL but never any growth. And for some reason, they seem to think that you are the one that they can always lean on in a bind, even without searching for a solution themselves. This could be your best friend from the third grade, your ex-girlfriend who you always have love for, your older sister who practically raised you, or even your dad who helped create you. Your success means to them "We're all successful! They got my back no matter what I do." Now, don't get me wrong. We all need a little help from time to time, whether monetary or a connection. In no way am I saying for you to hoard the blessings that have come your way. But sometimes by helping we are hurting them more in the long run. Here are some things that helping too much can do:

1. You get in the way of them learning some important lessons about actions and consequences. Ever see that mother who always bails their son out of jail no matter what they do? They pay for the lawyer, who knows right after this case, there will be another one. Or your homegirl who right after you help her get her repossessed car. Sometimes you need to say no, so they can really feel the pain of what they've done so that they'll understand they never need to do it again.

2. They never learn how to problem solve on their own. There's nothing more annoying to me than someone who consistently asks a question when the answer is right in front of them. A spoiled kid won't even LOOK for the answer. "Where's the sweater I threw on the floor in my bedroom?" Likewise, there are some people who will never grow up and handle their biz because you keep saving them. Speak up. Tell them how they can do it for themselves. Require a higher standard of them. Give a man a fish, you'll feed him for a week; teach a man to fish, and they'll never bother your ass again. 

3. They won't appreciate it. My friend said she bought her mother a car. Paid in full, the only thing she'd have to worry about is insurance, which would be cheap as hell. The first thing her mom said is, "So you're not gonna pay for the insurance, too?" When you make things too easy for someone, they never learn the value of things. $500 is nothing when it seems to come from the well of someone else's pockets and they haven't had to scramble to get it on their own. Hand someone a record deal who hasn't worked the open mic scene, made a buzz on the underground circuit, or tried to make it on their own. Watch them screw it up. Conflict and struggle allow us to grow and to appreciate the blessings that come our way. 

4. They always forget. As many times as you have bailed them out, when a small argument breaks out, they will be the first ones to write-you off, fight dirty, and call you out on your stuff, forgetting that you were the one who got them through all of these years. The argument could've been over the pettiest thing, but they'll act like it was the definition of your character and treat you as if they never needed you in the past. They may still owe you money, you may have just gotten off the phone with the company you got them a job with, or you may be dropping their child off after an expensively fun day at Dave & Busters. They won't remember that. They'll only remember how you made them feel at that point and time, and call you the Devil when you've been a Saint to them for the last ten years of their life.

5. It always ends horribly. When the time comes for them to pay you back, 9 times out of 10, they won't have it. When you need to borrow the car that you co-signed for, you'll find it got towed for unpaid parking tickets. The trifling ex-girlfriend that you helped them escape from, they'll move back in with. The friend who you help with bills and free daycare who has a husband that doesn't do a damn thing and only pays the bills that affect him directly, will be indefinitely defended and she will throw you under the bus in times of conflict with him. Or worse, your friends will have a dog fight in your backyard, you'll be the one to go to jail for it, and people will put up signs at your football games calling you a "dog killer" wishing you were executed instead of imprisoned. Either way, the conclusion sucks.

6. YOU DON'T HAVE TO. We bend over backwards to make others comfortable and to bless folk with what we've been blessed with. Some situations are good charity and are rewarding spiritually. Others become a curse to your own life. There's a fine balance between helping and being walked all over. Sometimes you just have to let folk live their life, as messed up as it may be. Don't feel sorry for someone who makes bad decisions that they'll pay for later. It's called "Growing up." There's no reason you should have your lights turned out because you helped someone put theirs back on. It's okay to say no. You don't have it. They can't stay at your house for a week. That's not doable. And don't feel guilty for taking care of yourself. You deserve it, and they should respect your decision. Don't let someone feel like it's okay to take advantage of your kindness.