I Feel The Need To Help, So Sue Me

A friend of mine has a problem.

What can we learn from the above sentence?  Quite a few things if we put our thinking caps on.  Let’s call this person Buddy.  Buddy is my friend.  Buddy has a problem. Right about now, we’d be aces in our simple reading comprehension class.

Also consider this.  I want to help my friend. To my mind, this is a natural progression.  If you call someone your friend, you should truly want to help them with a problem they have.  Have you ever helped someone move?  Have you ever loaned them money?  Have you ever jumped in to aid them in a fight?

Hmmm.  That last one is tricky.  What if you’ve never been in a fight before?  Most people don’t want to get hurt.  The self preservation instinct kicks in.  We may start asking ourselves questions about Buddy and about the situation.  Who and Why is Buddy fighting?  Did he start it?  Does he deserve it?  Uh oh, let’s not lose sight of the fact that Buddy is our friend.  Friends help friends no matter what right… ?  Will I get hurt if I help buddy?  Am I willing to get hurt to help Buddy?

That’s it.  Buddy is screwed.

In a lot of cases, for a lot of people, the answer to that last question is No.  Not a qualified no as in “well it depends.”  But just no.  Buddy is going to get his ass kicked.  Maybe by some drunk at a bar.  Maybe by a spouse or partner who doesn’t know what stop means.  Maybe because of an inability to keep himself out of trouble.  People get into fights all the time.  And their friends don’t support them, because they’re afraid of the consequences.  When you’re younger, the consequences might be a black eye.  When you’re an adult, the consequences turn into swift and severe legal action.

If Buddy and I beat the barfly.  He could sue the both of us for assault.  If I help Buddy with his domestic situation, I could be liable for invasion of privacy or something to that effect.  If Buddy needs professional help in the form of some type of intervention, either Buddy or his family could sue me for… I don’t know, giving a shit?  I don’t actually know what the legal implications are.  But I know they might be there.  And I know they’re scary.  Either way the problem is I could be found in violation of the law for caring enough to help someone.

The only thing I can say is that breaks my heart.  It’s never difficult to find someone willing to complain about how messed up things are these days.  There’s a war going on.  We’re in a recession.  More and more of our friends are losing fights every day.  And I think one of the big reasons is because they are going at it alone.  But those same complainers turn their backs to it every day.  They watch their Buddy get beat down and they can’t bring themselves to take action.  Apparently someone needs to define the word “friend” for me.

There’s a valid argument that maybe Buddy’s family should ultimately be responsible for helping.  But what if Buddy’s family doesn’t care as much as I do?  What if they’re ignorant and irresponsible and self-centered?  We’re talking about the downfall of society here, so clearly there are people who can’t count on a benevolent family support structure.

Another argument is that I should also consider my own situation when deciding whether to jump into the fray with my friend.  Can I afford to be hurt?  Will other people get hurt through me, like perhaps kids or my employer?  Probably the most pointed question is, if I need help next, will anyone help me? These are all important things to consider and not to be taken lightly.  But shouldn’t we consider them in the right context?  Instead of scaring ourselves with all these “what ifs” and convincing ourselves that it’s best not to get involved, why don’t we convince ourselves to do what’s right.  And then think about how to minimize the collateral damage.

Everyone has a limit.  If you aren’t part of a situation, you have to be cautious about getting involved.  But people survive hardships every day.  We all go through hard times and somehow come out on the other side.  Battered and bruised, but still standing.  And isn’t it worth it to do that sometimes if you can help someone you care about?  I think we have to try to take care of each other if we’re going to make it.  And if we’re going to help each other, we can’t be afraid to stand up.  Even if we might get hurt.

A friend of mine has a Big Problem.

I want to help my friend, but I could get hurt.  So do I help anyway?  Damn right I do.

4 thoughts on “I Feel The Need To Help, So Sue Me

  1. In a lot of cases, for a lot of people, the answer to that last question is No. Not a qualified no as in “well it depends.” But just no. Buddy is going to get his ass kicked. Maybe by some drunk at a bar. Maybe by a spouse or partner who doesn’t know what stop means. Maybe because of an inability to keep himself out of trouble. People get into fights all the time. And their friends don’t support them, because they’re afraid of the consequences. When you’re younger, the consequences might be a black eye. When you’re an adult, the consequences turn into swift and severe legal action.

    I think for many people it is a qualified answer. If Buddy is picking fights, screw Buddy. If Buddy’s spouse is abusive, who cares about getting hurt? By the same token, swift and sever legal consequences are not always a worry. Self-Defense remains a strong defense and validation in such cases.

    If the barfly in your example was assaulting Buddy without provocation, and you stepped in to protect Buddy, that strikes me as perfectly justifiable.

    But those same complainers turn their backs to it every day. They watch their Buddy get beat down and they can’t bring themselves to take action. Apparently someone needs to define the word “friend” for me.

    This is a personal choice, and one that strikes home for me. I believe some people are at a place in their life where they are unable to find the courage to take action and help a friend. In my own life, when this has happened, I’ve chosen to recognize this itself as something I can help. There is no question, even outside of risking getting hurt, a person who decides to help you when you need it deepens that friendship. But there is most definitely still friendship even when that person is unable to help, whether the reasons are physical (unable to fight the barfly) or mental.

    Probably the most pointed question is, if I need help next, will anyone help me?

    That depends on the situation, and the friend. Some friends will look at your history (“Was I helped when I needed it?”). Then there are some who I am sure will never help, just as there are those who will help regardless of whether or not you yourself helped them when they needed it.

    I think getting to a point where you are able to take that risk, both in seeing the need to help, and in taking action, is a wonderfully positive thing.

    I would caution though, that when the danger is from Buddy, you would do well to be as cautious and precise in your help as you can be. Be aware of the nature of the Big Problem, and whether your actions are helping solve it, or actively feeding it.

    I think Marco, that you’ll find a way to help.

  2. You make good points. I think the thing that really bothers me is people’s unwillingness to go through some unpleasantness to help a friend. Sure you should be practical about it. But deciding not to help because you might not come away completely unscathed seems like a sign that your priorities may be slightly out of whack.

  3. I know I am at least a small part of the reason behind this point, possibly all of it. I apologize for my recent actions (or inactions as it were) I feel like I really let the two of you down the other day. Although I will say that I was trying to manage the larger situation but I cannot tell if that is just a subconscious cop-out and piss-poor justification.

    I will say that another thing that needs to be considered is grey area, I know a lot of what I went through was: Is Buddy really in danger? Am I interpreting the situation wrong? Does Buddy seem calm because he is fine? or because he is afraid to act any other way?

    I guess what I am saying is that it isn’t always easy to identify when Buddy is in trouble or when Buddy needs help. And of all the points you made the other day the most poignant was that all it takes is asking “Are you ok?” No matter how dumb it may feel to ask that question and find out that you were wrong, I’m sure Buddy would appreciate it either way.

  4. Knowing when to help is important. And I think figuring that out is difficult if you’re also worried about what the outcome might be. The only thing you can do is use your judgment I guess. No apology needed.

    Thanks man

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