Helping People to Help People
Have you ever wondered why it is so hard to ask someone for help? Maybe the asking of help comes easy for you, but it is the offering of help that is harder? Or, maybe you are really good at asking for help and giving help and you can’t understand why others find it so hard? The answers to these questions come in the form of Ed Welch’s new book Side By Side. Dr. Welch’s book is written to help people help other people.
In Side By Side, Welch gives a great introductory statement:
“This book identifies the skills we need to help one another. It is for everyone—friends, parents, even neighbors. Along the way we will find that God is pleased to use ordinary people, ordinary conversations, and extraordinary and wise love to do most of the heavy lifting in his kingdom” (p. 11).
Dr. Welch does a great job of pointing out to us that everyone needs help. As believers in Jesus Christ, it is a little easier for us to see that we are needy people. But, it may be harder to see that we are all needed people as well. Side By Side is a great resource for helping us see the union between the two…We Are Needy and We Are Needed.
We Are Needy
In this first section of Side By Side, Dr. Welch gives us some reasons why we are needy. One of the reasons is that life is hard. In fact, Jesus tells us in John 16:33, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (emphasis mine). Dr. Welch makes a great statement in this chapter when he says:
“There is never a day when we have immunity from difficult circumstances” (p. 17).
Because of the hard things that can happen in our lives, one strategy that Dr. Welch offers in Side By Side is to organize the circumstances of our lives. I personally love diagrams and illustrations because they can help me grasp a little better what is being communicated. On page 18 of Side By Side, there is a really helpful diagram for organizing the circumstances of our lives using concentric circles. In the center of it all is the heart and the body, which represents us, and all the other circles represent the circumstances surrounding us. Dr. Welch then goes on to explain each circle to help us organize what is going on around us.
Another reason that we are needy is that our hearts are busy guiding our thoughts and actions as circumstances come up. Dr. Welch gives a great description of what the heart is and why it is important by stating:
“Our hearts are seen most readily through our emotions but are also expressed in the good—and the bad—that we do….Since Scripture itself is so interested in our hearts, it uses a rich and varied vocabulary to identify this controlling center of life. Spirit, soul, heart, mind, inner person, and conscience are the most familiar terms….They all identify our spiritual center, that is, how we are connected to God, at all times, whether we know it or not” (p. 23).
I think that Dr. Welch does a great job of pointing out how our hearts are expressed in the good and the bad that we do. Emotions are usually the first response to life’s circumstances and can point to what is most important to us. However, Dr. Welch makes a statement on page 26 that says:
“There is good in every human being. Even the blatant narcissist has a softer, good side if we look closely enough.”
At first glance, it appeared to me that Dr. Welch was saying that people’s hearts are basically good. But after careful consideration, corresponding with Dr. Welch, and reading on in the chapter, I began to understand what he was saying. He is not trying to minimize sin, but he is trying to help people be more personal and effective—to have an affection for others. He also wants to give people ways to engage the person that are not just confronting.
We Are Needed
In this second part of Side By Side, Dr. Welch explains how to begin to develop some good practical skills of helping others. Because we are at ease with our neediness, we can then move towards others who are in need and be a help to them. Dr. Welch puts it this way:
“We are needed. This is the way the church moves forward—through mutual love and care. Such expression of love was less obvious in the Old Testament, when people relied on kings, leaders, and prophets, but when the Spirit was given at Pentecost—everything changed. Suddenly, ordinary people had extraordinary impact” (p. 65).
A Great Resource for Helping the Hurting
Side By Side is a great resource for anyone wanting to learn how to help those who are hurting. Stepping into the lives of others can be an intimidating thing, but by God’s grace, believers in Christ have been given the Holy Spirit, God’s Word, and the church so we can confidently move towards others in need. Side By Side gives us ways in which we all can grow in Walking With Others In Wisdom and Love.