Anne Lamott recently gave a TED Talk called “12 Truths I Learned from Life and Writing.” #3 has to do with helping others (or not). She says, “Our help is usually not very helpful. Our help is often toxic. And help is the sunny side of control. Stop helping so much. Don’t get your help and goodness all over everybody.”
She goes on to say, “While fixing and saving and trying to rescue is futile, radical self-care is quantum. Being full of affection for one’s…self is home. It’s where world peace begins.”
I get what she’s saying. And she’s not the only one saying it. A lot of authors are pushing back against toxic charity. We shouldn’t do for others what they should (and often must) do for themselves. And we most definitely should go deep and check our motives. The helping façade can do more harm than good.
Furthermore, Jesus seemed to react to issues (hunger, illness, oppression, even death) as they came up in his everyday life. He didn’t proactively set up soup kitchens, in other words. He just fed 5000 people with a child’s Happy Meal as part of his normal day.
Obviously, he had the right motives. The last thing he seemed to care about was looking good in front of others. And obviously he had spent time tending to his soul before his Father so that he was prepared.
So what does that mean for us?
I think it means doing the two-step. Step One–practicing radical self-care so we are filled up, in alignment with God, and operating with right motives. THEN Step Two—practicing love for those around us. Even the airlines get it. “Put your oxygen mask on first, then assist others.” They don’t say, “Put your oxygen mask on first and let others fend for themselves.”
(So a soup kitchen might be an excellent step two, with proper motives.)
Anne Lamott’s full quote above is, “Being full of affection for one’s goofy, self-centered, cranky, annoying self is home. It’s where world peace begins.”
After that we get to two-step. In other words, dance.