Why it’s a good thing we can’t help others without their consent

You’re not General Manager of the Universe – you just help a bit.  Photo by Guillermo Ferla on Unsplash

One of my roles is to help businesses.  I have learned that I can’t always help businesses that are really intent on their own destruction.  Don’t get me wrong – I will always try to assist in whatever way I can.  But, at the end of the day, there is the matter of consent.  If a business person wants to spend money they haven’t got, or try to cheat the authorities, or be disorganized, or attend to other priorities… then, in a relatively free world, I cannot reach into their lives and force them to make changes.

In counselling, too I have to spend an awful lot of time listening to clients ponder their own felt powerlessness.  As humans, we are all subject to quirks of biology, culture and experience that we can’t always disrupt.  This means that I have to learn patience.  If a client wants to use up their resources, lie to others, make messes, turn their heads in directions other than their own happiness… then, again, in a relatively free world, I cannot force them to help themselves.

This is a good thing.  After all, I may be wrong in my own thoughts.  Who is to say that I have the right course for them?  The fact that others can go their own way, exempts us from a hundred per cent responsibility for their lives.  It can’t be a hundred per cent.  If it was, they would be our slaves.

If it is true that we can’t control others, it is also true that we can influence them.

I have learned that I help others better when I follow a few simple principles:

  1. Try to live well, and the example may help others
  2. Apply wisdom to how and when I offer help.  Sometimes, timing and judgement are critical
  3. Be patient, be patient, be patient.  Showing frustration has a way of creating a wheel of suffering


Do I sometimes mistake myself for General Manager of the Universe?

Do I believe that if others changed their lives and behaviour to match my opinions, they would benefit?

Even if I am right, am I conducting myself so as to give others a gentle route to happiness?  Am I attending to my own life well, so that I am in a good position to help others?  Have I developed a sense of wise timing and accurate judgement as to the best times to intervene?  Above all, am I patient or frustrated?  If frustrated, then maybe it is I myself who needs to alter my behaviour, before I can judge, communicate with, or help others.