We are living in a value-based culture. At the world’s fast pace, everything and everyone is quickly evaluated by how much value they will add to our lives. If they don’t seem to offer much value, then we tend to move on.

I’ll admit that I’m guilty of judging others and myself on this same scaling system. At times, I consider how much I have to offer other people and base my self-esteem around that. “How much value do I add,” I’ve asked myself, “and how can I add more value to other people’s lives to make myself a more desirable person?”

In many cases this type of mentality can bring benefits to the lives of others. It can even masquerade as Helpfulness, but the heart of this mentality is shallow because it’s done for our own well-being instead of the well-being of others. When performed for individual gain this type of behavior can easily become a vice.

The definition of Helpfulness is being of service to the people closest to us and doing thoughtful things that makes a difference in their lives. True Helpfulness has a prerequisite that makes it unique from other virtues. Helpfulness requires that we take the time to be observant and aware of the other person first so we may have a true understanding of their needs.

Helpfulness comes from a heart of caring and a desire to really know the other person. Before we can be helpful, we must seek to understand. I know I’ve been in situations when I think I’m being helpful but I’m only making the situation worse! Usually this is done with the best intentions, but it comes down to the fact that I didn’t really understand the needs of the person I was trying to help.

In a culture where we are told to find solutions before we’ve asked the right questions, this can be especially dangerous. For me, one of the most frustrating situations is when I seek guidance from another person and they give me advice before they’ve taken the time to know the relevant information. I know I can be guilty of this as well. When my desire to seem valuable is greater than my desire to be truly helpful, I often dismiss the needs of others.

For parents, this can be especially challenging. There is so much required of parents, and it is our job to help our kids become the best they can be. Sometimes that may mean doing a task for them, other times it means helping them do it themselves. In these situations, do we take the time to understand what they really need?

The value that we offer doesn’t always translate into Helpfulness. To be truly helpful, we must become like a student of the people we seek to serve. Before jumping in to help, let’s take the time to care, to listen and be aware so that we may be of the greatest service to the people we love the most.

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