I have a problem with asking, and it turns out I’m not alone. Many members of my immediate and extended family; many of my friends; and even coworkers and acquaintances have all admitted to me – in the course of conversations large and small – that asking others for help, for advice, for their time, for their attention is all but impossible.
I see this in a very particular form in my tech work, which I’ll explain by way of a story:
A coworker, who I’ll call Joseph, was in charge of building a new, comprehensive disk alert in the monitoring solution we were migrating to. I was very familiar with this solution and that was well known. I had offered to help folks with any questions or challenges they faced.
Three. Months. Later. Joseph still wasn’t done. He was barely a third of the way through. When I finally pushed my way in to look at what he had, I was able to identify the reason he was stuck and help him get past it.
When I asked Joseph (and unfortunately I wasn’t particularly kind about it) why he hadn’t asked me for help, he said, “I wanted to figure it out myself. I didn’t want you to waste your time on this.”
Here’s the problem with that logic: For the 3 months he was consumed with that ONE alert, I and the rest of our team had to cover all the OTHER things Joseph wasn’t able to get to. So he wasn’t saving anybody time or doing anyone a favor.
Here’s the lesson – as much for myself as it may be for anyone else:
Asking is not demanding.
Nor is it begging.
Nor is it insisting, cajoling, obligating, guilt-tripping, ordering, or strong-arming.
When we ask, we are requesting.
When we are asked, we respond to a request.
Asking for help is not admission of weakness, it’s actually a declaration of strength. It shows that we are confident enough in all the things we DO know and CAN do, that we can easily (and even joyfully) admit when we don’t or can’t, and that we are eager to learn from someone else.
This is also a good frame of mind for our approach to the Holy One as we ask for another year of life. While every moment of life has inestimable value, an a lifetime infinitely more so, our asking for it is not a burden, but an expression of recognition of that fact. In asking, we also demonstrate that we understand the value of the gift we’re asking for, and that we know from Whom that gift comes.