Selfishly Helping

During a period of our marriage, my wife became depressed. I wanted to help her feel better. I gave her a lot of advice. I would encourage her to do things. I would work really hard at thinking of ways she could feel better. She didn’t get better.

I felt that I was working harder than she was. I would get frustrated that she would not listen to my advice. She would respond by doing even less.

One day I realized how selfish I was. I was not trying to help her because I loved her. I was trying to help her because I didn’t want to feel bad anymore. Being around a depressed person felt miserable. I really wanted her to feel better so I wouldn’t feel bad.

The realization of my selfishness changed my approach. After that, I was okay if she wasn’t ready to start getting better. I could still help her, but I would do it out of love. If she rejected the help, it didn’t matter. What mattered is that I felt happy that I could show her love. Before helping her, each time, I would ask myself, “am I doing this for her, or for me?”  After I changed my approach, she got better.

When we help people, we either do it because we love them, or because we don’t want to experience feelings of sadness. Our motivations are very different when we act out of our own self-interests verses when we act out of the interest of others. When we act out of our own self-interests, we outpace the person we are trying to help. When we outpace people, we become resentful for feeling like we are working harder than they are. They become resentful for feeling like we are pushing them. Neither person finds peace.