When do we ask for help? I have often thought about this question. For various reasons, life becomes overwhelming. We struggle and suffer under seemingly impossible trials at one time or another. Whether it is illness, loss of a job, scholastic failure, relationship trouble, or some as of yet unforeseeable hardship, I have found that when we are over-run with suffering we often recoil into ourselves and suffer alone. We put up our walls and attempt to weather the storms of circumstance alone. I find myself doing this quite often. I suffer alone.
It feels wrong to ask for help, to put my burdens on someone else’s shoulders. Moreover, if I share my suffering I make myself vulnerable to the suffering of others.There is a famous quotation from Ella Wheeler Wilcox’s Solitude that says, “Laugh and the world laughs with you. Weep, and you weep alone.” Our suffering is an individual experience. Why? It seems like such a simple solution. When life becomes too much, ask for help. But when do we ask for help? We cannot ask all of the time. When should we seek help from our God, our family, our spouse, our friends, or even from strangers?
In my reflection, I have found few answers. I help others readily, and hope that they are willing to seek my assistance, but my reticence to ask for assistance remains. I want to ask for help. I want someone to put their arm around me and help me carry the weight, yet I cannot bear to utter the request. I would rather project insouciance unto the world, hoping that the deception becomes the reality. I would rather deny the existence of suffering than acknowledge its presence, which goes against every Buddhist teaching that I claim to follow. My Sangha (Buddhist community) should be part of that support system that I turn to, however, I haven’t had a Sangha in a very long time. I am missing a core part of my religious society. Yet, I suspect that even if I had a Sangha that desire to deny the unpleasant is so strong that it would be very difficult to ignore.
I sometimes observe my Christian counterparts turning to their community and turning to God for help through tough times. And I admire the courage that it takes for these individuals to ask for help. Where do you find the strength to say that you are not strong enough? I hope that my struggles and questions help you find answers for yourself. If you think of something, please share it. I need help.