The question: “Can I help you?” is a question that millions of people ask millions of other people every single day.
What does it actually mean to help another human being?
Or indeed to help an entire community. Helping is a powerful and often beautiful human impulse, but helping has a shadow side, that certain styles or forms of helping, are actually doing more harm than good.
A Harvard academic puts it beautifully when she says that “when we do change to people, they experience it as violence, but when people do change for themselves, they experience it as liberation.” If we want to help people in a way that does no harm to them and their capacities in their communities, then the best place to start is with what is strong within them, and within their communities, and not with what’s wrong. There is an abundance of evidence that calls us to this way of helping, including the 75-year study on ‘what makes happiness possible?’, the longitudinal study from Harvard which reminds us that it’s best to lean into our relationships and to create community, rather than lean into ourselves and money.