The Discernment of Help

by Amanda Petersen

It is often thought that discernment has to do with a decision between two choices. Should I move or stay? Is this the right person for me? Is God calling me to this form of service? Or discernment is talked about around emotions. Is what I am feeling consolation or desolation? Is this a feeling of dread or excitement? What decision will bring me closer to peace and joy?

Recently I have been seeing another place for discernment. Discerning when to ask for help. I have been aware in my own life and in the lives of others what a huge discernment this is. I have watched in the past few weeks how not doing this type of discernment creates so much pain and suffering. There is a tendency to just assume one should do everything themselves and what could have been done in a few minutes if someone had asked for help took hours of frustration.

I can’t speak for another’s experience but here is what I notice in myself. I see something that needs to be done within a time frame. I start the project and hit a snag. Either I don’t know what to do or don’t have the right equipment or realize I don’t really have time to do it. Then the discernment starts. Do I stop, risk not getting it done when I want it done and let someone help or do I plow ahead. I usually just skip over the discernment and plow ahead. I struggle and second guess my decision. This is when frustration, blame, self-judgment, other judgment (if only the company made the parts better then…) start and the project slows down. All the while a voice in my head says maybe you can’t do this and should stop. This is another point of discernment. Depending on how centered I am I will either stop or I will answer back “What, me not able to do something? Ha! This won’t beat me, I’ll show it!” and on I go. Or I negotiate more time. If I don’t get it in the next 30 minutes then I’ll ask for help.

My recent practice is to be aware of those discernment opportunities. Sit with the resistance to ask for help. Have a dialog with God on the whole topic and often a good laugh at my "I can do it all" attitude. I’ve begun to ask the question "is struggling to do this task a spiritual or skill learning or is it an ego opportunity?" If it is a skill that is part of my growing journey and important to see through then I either bumble along or ask for a teacher. If it isn’t then I am learning to let go. Acknowledge that asking for help is letting go of total control and opening the task up to go in a way I might not have traveled. And, when appropriate, asking for help is a deep spiritual practice of connection, humility, trust and companionship, not to mention that it alleviates a lot of unneeded stress.

This week pay attention to the practice of discernment of help. What is it like to sit with the resistance to reach out?