One approach to helpful people are a nuisance is to distinguish between being helpful and being useful. This gives us four distinct qualities of assistance:
The helpful-helpful person knows what is best for you, because they know what is best for them. Unable to distinguish between themselves and others, they know for a certainty that what is good for them is good for others. And will force it on them, whether the help is wanted or not. This is the basement of help. The helpful-helpful person is not only a nuisance, they are a positive danger. This is the world of the fundamentalist, the true believer, the social improver. This may be recognised by the force that accompanies the “help.”
The useful-helpful person can see beyond themselves, but lack the integral vision to judge the repercussions which will inevitably arise from their provision of this help. So, the useful-helpful person of intelligence offers their assistance before giving it; and feels no insult should their offer be declined.
The helpful-useful person has the capacity of being able to place themselves in the position of the person needing help, and knowing the outcome of the assistance they are able to provide. The help will be nicely judged, in quality and quantity. No more help than is necessary will be provided, no more help than can be absorbed is offered. This is where the ecology of help begins.
The useful-useful person is rare indeed: their help is always on offer, and available; but we have no idea of the nature of this help, nor what is involved in its provision. The useful-useful person is, however we may understand this in our own terms, in a state of ongoing-prayer. In a sense, they are prayer (or help) incarnate. This is a very high and rare condition. There is no force at all in the help that is on offer here: the help cannot be given to us against our will. Better that we call constantly for help of this quality, knowing that it will not (and cannot) be denied us. But we must ask.
This places the onus on us: what kind of help do we need? And how may we use this help should it rain upon us?
The manner in which help is made available can also be approached in the same way, on the spectrum between gentleness (where our right to ask for help is absolute) and the force of unwanted assistance (it’s good for you whether you know it or not):
the gentleness of gentleness
the gentleness of force the force of gentleness
the force of force
The gentleness of gentleness nevertheless has its own quality of necessity.
Sometimes help is offered to us, although we have not asked for it. This is as if we have a Good Friend who accompanies us through life, watching out for our best interests, even where we ourselves are blind to what is required. When this help is offered, it is utterly without pressure, force, coercion. This is astonishing: that we may be offered a gift by Someone who has no personal interest whatsoever in whether we accept it, or not.
May we have the clarity to recognise a gift of this quality, the courage to accept it, and the capacity to keep the gift in motion.
Tuesday, 13th. March 2001
The Basement, Chateau Belew,
Mount Juliet, Tennessee.