Help. A single word where correct choice of punctuation is imperative to communicate the right meaning. An exclamation mark signals terror and panic (and reminds me of many of my childhood reads), whilst a subsequent question mark conjurs up an entirely different scenario. The question mark implies the speaker has some skill or expertise that can be of assistance. It also suggests that the speaker is willing to devote time (at minimum) to spend on someone else.
We all depend on help in a variety of forms to live. Although we might believe some of our successes are achieved independently, in reality, there are many moving pieces that have resulted in us being where we are today. Offering help to someone is generally thought of as kind and caring; sometimes even selfless. But is it always this way? Even if you think about your most selfless offer of help, can you really say it was selfless?
People often remark that my prior teaching career was a ‘selfless profession’ as I helped children day in, day out. I always disagree with this remark; I got huge satisfaction from teaching, and, actually, what sparked my career change was not ill-behaved children or difficult parents, but extensive feelings of redundancy and lack of influence – two factors far from the ‘selfless’ label teaching can have. Moreover, what sparked my interest in becoming a teacher was the desire to be in control of others’ education. Having never enjoyed school myself, I wanted others to have an entirely different experience. (I can honestly say approximately 100% of my friends and family were shocked when I decided to become a teacher!)
Now, I am not saying that all suggestions of help are laced with selfish, controlling motives, but I definitely think more are than we would care to think of; particularly those offerings that come without prompting.
Take a colleague at work continuously offering you help, for example. Why are they doing this? Is it because they think you are incompetent? Or is it the complete opposite and they think you are highly capable and want to be attributed to your success? Is it because they are self-conscious about their own quality of work? Is it because they want to be seen as tla team player and doing “the right thing”?
What about someone who continuously offers you help in the gym? Is it because they are concerned your technique is dangerous? Is it because they see your potential and want to be involved in the satisfaction of watching you bloom? Is it because they want to demonstrate their knowledge or because they want to prove themselves?
There is no question, help in the broadeat sense is a wonderful thing. Regardless of how independent you are, we are all entirely dependent on interdependency. But, i do think that help is not exempt from the list of things we should be cautious of. Not every offer of help is laden with your best interests at heart, and, while, we may accept help knowing that really we are the ones helping, sometimes it is perfectly okay to turn it down. Just because we think of help as kind and thoughtful, remember that an exclamation mark after writing ‘help’ can initiate an entirely different thought process.