Help wisely, lest you enable

Published 5:33 pm Wednesday, April 13, 2022

By Nathan Rice

The song “Lean on Me” by Bill Withers turns 50 years old this month, but it is a song that many people still know.

The lyrics that give an invitation to “Lean on me when you’re not strong,” and the phrase “We all need somebody to lean on,” still resonate with us today. It’s probably still popular because the lyrics are timeless and true. We all need someone to lean on at times. We all need help from others.


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Helping others is a good thing to do, but there are times when the people we are trying to help seem to not benefit from our assistance. We should never allow ourselves to become jaded from helping others, but there are legitimate times we should re-examine how we are helping.

When continued assistance does not seem to help someone, we should take a step back to examine the situation. There can be a fine line between helping and enabling, and there are times when it’s difficult to tell the difference.

It is wise to look at the situation to determine if what we are doing to help is actually assisting the person in overcoming a challenging problem or allowing them to continue to make poor decisions. It’s not our job to judge others, but we should be judging if what we are doing is helping the person or putting them deeper into a bad situation. If our help only enables a person’s bad habits or poor decisions, it does not really help.

We should also see if the help we are giving is costing us more than we realize. I am not saying that we should not help others if it costs us something. The very nature of help costs the giver something, and we should be willing to sacrifice to help those in need. However, sometimes when we try to help, we drag ourselves down more than lifting someone else up. It’s not a help if we end up in the same pit that we were trying to help someone leave.

Lastly, we should realize that some people will never be able to be helped enough. It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to assist, but we should be cautious when we see that we can never give enough. Some are just unable or unwilling to use the help given to grow out of a situation. There are various reasons they may not be able to move forward, but those who are never satisfied with the help given can be a sign that our support isn’t actually helping.

When we run into situations like these, we should pause to consider if we are actually helping or if we need to shift the manner of our assistance. It doesn’t make us a bad or judgmental person, and it doesn’t mean we don’t want to help. It just means that we want to help wisely.

As we examine the help we give, we should err on the side of generosity when you help others. It is better to give too much than not enough. We should, however, make sure the help we are providing is actually helping.


Nathan Rice, a Hampton Roads resident since 1988, is a branch operations manager for a regional credit union in Virginia and North Carolina. He has volunteered with children and youth through various organizations for over 15 years. He is interim pastor at Portsmouth Nazarene Church. His email address is