How to Ask for Help

I recently got engaged. I barely had a ring on my finger and a sip of Champagne past my lips before wedding stress set in. How to plan a celebration without spending as much as a down payment on a house? What location would be most convenient for the dozens of people coming from other states and countries? Could a string quartet effectively render “Zadoc the Priest”?

I made lists. I emailed people. I carried a binder everywhere. I suggested we elope when a venue that touted itself as affordable wanted to charge us twice what we had budgeted. That’s when my fiancé stepped in. Perhaps typically of a soon-to-be bride, I thought I could handle it by myself. But he found several options I had never considered, and the courthouse remains a backup. 

As for bridesmaids, I’d had some friends in mind for years, but was nervous about asking them. I did expect them to say yes, but I understood why someone would say no. Flying to the Midwest to throw a party in honor of a friend who may or may not dress you up in bubblegum pink polyester may not be an appealing proposition. 

But the response was overwhelming. They pledged to take time off from work so the wedding celebration could be spread over a long weekend. My friend from South America volunteered to do as much planning as she could from another country. They were all so enthusiastic, and I had a smile on my face for hours.

None of these developments should have surprised me. Humans are social creatures. When people ask for my help, whether at work or at home, I’m almost always happy to give it. But asking for help can be
more difficult than giving it.

Self-reliance is a virtue, especially among those who consider themselves libertarians and conservatives — so much so that the value of collaboration and community can fall by the wayside. Perhaps we need an occasional reminder that self-reliance has an important counterpart: humility. That’s the ability to know our limits and strengths, to ask for help and to graciously accept when it is offered.

It’s hard to admit when we can’t do it all by ourselves. Receiving help isn’t an act of weakness, though. It’s a way to recognize our loved ones’ skills and value, and an opportunity to learn something new. And offering and giving help is usually a surefire way to improve your own well-being, as well as someone else’s.

So I’m trying to stop thinking of myself as an undue burden and instead graciously accept the help my friends and family offer over the next year. And then I’ll look forward to getting the opportunity to reciprocate.

Voluntarily giving and receiving help is, after all, a hallmark of a good society. It’s also the only way I’ll make it to my wedding day.