Helping others without knowing how to help myself

The biggest questions that have plagued me lately cut deep in my soul:

  • How can I help people, when I can barely help myself?
  • How do I provide hope for others, when I myself feel very little hope ?
  • How do I heal, when I am so broken?
  • How do I offer spiritual direction, in the dark night of the soul?

It’s a painful query and I don’t really know the answer. The best I can do is remind myself that when things get basic, I have to get basic as well. How can I take care of myself in this time? I know, in part, how connected our minds and our bodies are to our soul’s… how to even disconnect them? So when I don’t have answers to the existential questions, at least I may find some clarity in my body.

What am I eating, what am I drinking, am I moving (exercising is good, but at least I should be moving), how much sleep am I getting… there is a need to get clean.

Because we are still called to be present with those around us… to hold space in their suffering… and so often we really don’t have a choice, we come with our broken selves and we listen. How difficult it really is to be brutally honest about how I’m doing and not take all the attention on to myself. We learn as we go, and we remember especially in these times how equal we all are as human beings.

I am also reminded by the ancient mystic, John of the Cross, the one who first wrote so extensively on the dark night of the soul:

“When we begin our spiritual journey we often want God to desire what we want, and become dejected if we have instead to learn to desire what God wants. We measure God by ourselves and not ourselves by God, which is quite contrary to the gospel. For our Lord says that those who lose their lives for his sake will gain it, but that they who desire to gain their life will lose it.”

What does “losing your life” mean to you? How do you help others when you are at the end yourself?

3 thoughts on “Helping others without knowing how to help myself

  1. I discovered that these things (helping myself and helping others) at first did not overlap in time/space. First I had to help myself – and then when I looked back I could see how the path I had just walked gave me GREAT new skill to be able to help others. Now that I have come through that dark time, it is easy (easier) to help myself while helping others, because I know that when my own “well” is filled only then can I give water.


  2. Wise and honest words. So often we neglect the simple tasks of caring for ourselves, always trying to get the big things done, which just mires us deeper in the darkness. I think that it is healing to be able to reach out in our pain and help others when possible, knowing that God blesses this and lifts our souls. There is a difference between soup hope and head hope. Soul hope is that which we feel and breathe when all is well. Head hope is knowing that God is still there even when we can’t feel him, even when we can’t feel the hope. It is then we must cling to the knowledge that there is always hope.


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