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How can I “be there” for a friend who could really use my help but doesn’t want it?


How can I “be there” for a friend who could really use my help but doesn’t want it?—Trying to Be a Good Friend, 15, AK

Shayna Answers:

Dear Trying to Be a Good Friend,

For many of us (myself included!) it’s difficult to accept help from others, even when we know we really need it. There could be several reasons why. Maybe your friend feels self-sufficient. Maybe your friend isn’t used to asking for help. Or maybe your friend feels unworthy of your help. Probably your friend isn’t trying to push you away, but just isn’t sure how to accept your help.
I don’t know in what capacity your friend needs you to “be there.” No matter if the burden is physical, spiritual, or emotional, it usually helps for people to know that they have a support system. However, if your friend has already said they don’t want help, presenting your offers in a repeated and forward way will push them away.
Instead of saying to them, “You know I’m here for you,” or telling them, “I want to help you,” simply communicate that by your actions. Spend more time with them, actively listen to them, and call just to talk—not to “help” them.
Nonverbal communication can be as effective as words. Matthew 25:31-46 tells us to concentrate on our actions, not our words.
It’s really important not to make a display of your efforts toward your friend. For your friend, it’s the extra attention and needy feelings that are hardest to accept. For example, if your friend really needs food and you want to invite them home for dinner, invite three or four other friends too. Instead of being a charity dinner for one friend, make it about just hanging out. If you want to offer your friend leftovers after dinner, offer them to everyone, so that they’re not singled out from the crowd.
Whatever you do to help your friend, try not to remind them of their circumstances or clarify your position by saying things such as “I know you don’t have anyone” or “I know you need help.” Even if both statements are true, saying them outright will diminish your efforts as a good friend. It can also potentially embarrass your friend and make them feel inferior to you. First Corin-thians 13:7 says that love “always protects,” so whatever you do, protect their feelings and sensitive circumstances.
Even after backing off and not singling out your friend, you still may have to respect their decision to not allow you to help them for awhile. For some of us, accepting help is based on trust issues—we don’t want to become vulnerable or admit defeat. If either of these situations is your friend’s case, don’t push your friend, but keep reminding them that you’re available. Every few weeks you may casually say something, such as “My offer still stands, OK?”
Your friend may con-tinue to reject your help, but one day they might just surprise you. Regardless of their decision, Philippians 2:3, 4 encourages us to keep caring for each other. You can do this by praying for your friend. James 5:16 says prayer is a “powerful and effective” way to help your friend.

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