“No, they get stronger as they peck at the shell. If you broke it, they wouldn’t have the strength they need to survive.”
I watched the baby chick chip at the shell until finally, it flung its body out of the shell and flopped. It tried to get up and fell, tried to get up and fell again, over and over. It flapped its little wet wings and tried to walk on its huge webbed feet but couldn’t. It was hard to watch except that I knew that the best thing to do was to let it struggle.
Slowly after getting up and falling down and flapping its little wings, it began to get stronger and stronger. His feathers dried and began to fluff out. After twenty four hours, it was up on its feet and ready to eat and drink and hang out with the other chicks who had already been through the process.
As I reflected on this, I thought about how many times we have a tendency to help someone too much because we don’t like to see them struggle. Whether it’s our kids, spouses, friends or co-workers, it’s a natural tendency to want to help them. There is definitely a time to help but there are other times when we need to simply watch and let them figure out on their own what to do.
I know of a situation where a mother consistently solved her daughter’s problems. Every time her daughter got in trouble or had difficulties, the mother would “fix it.” When the daughter grew up, she didn’t know how to deal with life’s problems. Rather than face her difficulties and work through them, she had a tendency to escape through the use of alcohol.
Finally she found a good recovery support group who helped her grow up and begin to take responsibility little by little. Now she’s a very responsible person.
When you see someone struggle who needs to, what can you do instead of doing it for them?
1. Provide a warm, supportive environment. My friend warmed a box with a heating lamp for the chicks and gave them room to struggle while they got on their feet.
You can do the same by providing a supportive emotional environment. When the person shares their struggles and frustrations, listen to them. Let them cry, vent their anger and share their frustrations.
2. Acknowledge their feelings. For example, you might say something like, “I’m sure that must be scary for you.” Or “I can understand why you are angry.” Or if they cry, let them, without telling them to stop. Crying is a healthy release of stress, sadness and frustration.
You don’t have to give them solutions. Be sure and let them express their other feelings without interrupting. Often, by being able to freely share their feelings, they’ll come up with ideas of how to solve their problems on their own.
3. Express confidence in them. After they’ve finished sharing, let them know you believe they will figure it out. Encourage them by pointing out the good qualities you see in them.
4. Show an interest in their journey. Check in with them and ask how they are doing. Let them know you care and support them.
5. Celebrate progress. Acknowledge how far they’ve come. Applaud even small steps. Progress, not perfection, is what you want to affirm.
As you do this, you will not only help your friend, you will grow too. When you watch them and what they do, you will learn from them and find encouragement for your own challenges.
“Be kind and compassionate to one another . . .” Ephesians 4:32 (NIV)