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Is Help Really Help If There Are Strings Attached?

Is Help Really Help If There Are Strings Attached

In our lives, there are moments when we find ourselves in need of help. It could be a financial crisis, an emotional breakdown, or simply a difficult decision to make. Seeking assistance in these times is only natural; after all, we are social beings, interdependent on one another. However, the concept of help goes beyond the surface-level definition. It delves into the realms of intention, perception, and the dynamics between giver and receiver.

When faced with the prospect of receiving help, several questions come to mind. Is it helpful if we have to pay back for it at a later time? Is it helpful if everyone around us is aware that we sought assistance? Is it helpful if the person who helped us constantly reminds us of their assistance? These questions challenge the conventional understanding of help and force us to question its true nature.

We live in a society that often values transactions and reciprocity. It is not uncommon for assistance to come with a price tag or a hidden expectation of repayment. However, true help transcends these superficial conditions. Genuine assistance arises from a place of compassion, empathy, and a sincere desire to alleviate someone's suffering. It stems from the recognition that we are all interconnected, and by helping others, we contribute to the betterment of our collective existence.

Help loses its essence when it becomes burdened with the expectation of reciprocation. Expecting repayment for our acts of kindness diminishes the purity of the gesture and transforms it into a transactional exchange1. True help, on the other hand, is selfless and does not seek validation or a return on investment. It is rooted in the understanding that offering assistance is an opportunity to make a positive impact on someone's life, irrespective of any future obligation.

Similarly, the awareness of others about our acts of assistance should not be a prerequisite for their effectiveness. The purpose of helping is not to gain recognition or praise but to genuinely lend a hand to someone in need. The true power of help lies in its ability to uplift, inspire, and transform lives, even when it goes unnoticed by the public. It is the quiet moments of support, the gentle words of encouragement, and the empathetic presence that hold the greatest significance, regardless of whether they are acknowledged or not.

Furthermore, constantly reminding others of how we have assisted them undermines the sincerity of our actions and diminishes its authenticity. Help should not be an opportunity for self-glorification or a means to establish superiority. It should be a humble act, carried out without expectation or the desire to inflate our own egos. When we truly help others, we do so without attaching strings or reminders. We understand that the impact of our assistance is best felt when it is allowed to resonate within the hearts of those we have helped, rather than being overshadowed by our constant reminders.

Understanding the true essence of help is crucial in our interactions with others. It allows us to navigate the delicate balance between offering assistance and respecting personal boundaries. We must recognise that everyone has their own unique way of receiving and expressing gratitude. Some may openly express their appreciation, while others might internalise their gratitude. And sometimes, those who appear ungrateful might simply be struggling to reconcile their own vulnerabilities and insecurities with the help they have received.

But does help lose its essence if we have to pay it back at a later time? Not necessarily. Repaying a debt of help can be a way to honour the interconnectedness between individuals and maintain a sense of balance. However, the key lies in the understanding that repayment should not diminish the initial act of assistance. It should be approached with gratitude and a genuine intention to reciprocate, rather than turning it into an obligation2.
So, the next time you offer or seek help, remember to embrace its true essence. Be mindful of your intentions and let go of the need for external validation. Understand that being in a position to offer help is a gift, and its value lies in the connections it fosters and the positive change it brings. By embodying the essence of help, we can create a world where compassion and empathy thrive, and where the power of assistance transforms lives for the better.

“The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.” ~Samuel Johnson

But here are some retrospective questions for you to guide me: You may choose to answer only one or all.

• Is it help if you have to pay back for it at a later time?
• Is it help if everyone is aware that you offered assistance?
• Is it help if you constantly remind how you assisted?
• Should I be selective of who I turn to for assistance?
• Am I ungrateful to someone who believed offered me some assistance during my down time because of their self-glorification?


1. Expectations for the self-destroys goodness of an action. You may not want to get money or other tangible benefits from your good deed but wishing for blessing or recognition of what you have done is still expecting something in return and that is wrong.
2. Releasing expectations doesn’t mean you give other people permission to treat you thoughtlessly. It just means you check in with your motivations and give because you want to, and then ask for things directly when you want them. People who care about you will be there for you in return.

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