Knowing When To Help & Helping When You Can

"If you've come here to help me, you're wasting your time. But if you've come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together." - Lilla Watson, aboriginal elder


 "Helping Hands" by Suzy Norris

There are 7 billion people on the planet. Few feel they are actually able to help others.

Suffering clearly surrounds us - sickness, poverty, violence. Why don't more people step in? Why don't we do something to stop all this? Do you ever wonder why you don't go out of your way to rescue another? 

An answer comes from the concept coined diffusion of responsibility. The idea behind it is that the more people there are in a situation, the less responsible others see themselves for changing the outcome of a state of emergency.   

People often don't hold themselves accountable because there are huge costs involved. You can get sued for helping someone the wrong way, without the right credentials. You can lose money loaning it to someone who will never pay you back. If you try to break up a fight, you can get killed. You can become sick by sticking yourself in the center of a diseased community. You can become dysfunctional by focusing on all the world's problems, rather than taking care of yourself. 

Findings from a study by Darley and Latane called "Bystander Intervention in Emergencies" found that people are 50 percent more likely to respond in a life-threatening situation if there are only two people around than if there were six people in a group witnessing the same event. 

Competence is an important component. You must know how to respond to danger to do so effectively. You can't be blindly well-intentioned, or you can cause more damage than good. To be effective often requires a lot of education. You have to invest in being able to help others in a certain way. 

Other crisis situations, like global warming, require such massive intervention that every person needs to alter our technologies, our energy sources, our philosophies, and daily behaviors. If we want change, we can't defer personal responsibility to a leader to make decisions on our behalf. Possible solutions will have to come from each individual. The process of living out these solutions will be a giant experiment filled with mishaps, because it is difficult to be competent at something that has never been done before. And yet, it is our duty to try. 

What type of person does it take to be a hero?

Researchers found the following variables were present:

  • You must have no doubt in your mind what is going on.
  • You must see that help is, without a doubt, needed.
  • You must see yourself as the only person capable of committing an action.
  • You must be able to use your cognitive capacity to decide what is an appropriate action.
  • You can't be concerned with social comparison and the other people around you who may be acting differently, pretending nothing is wrong. 

You must have sharp instincts, be informed and incessantly altruistic. To act as a warrior of sorts for humanity, you must be a bonafide free thinking individual, working to transcend the limitations and malaise that arise when we view ourselves as disconnected humans. Because the truth is, we can make a difference.   

words by Alison Sher

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