When Helping Hurts

From my 2012 Journal. Here are my takeaway quotes and statements from a thought-provoking book entitled When Helping Hurts–How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor . . . And Yourself. According to the authors, Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, every human being is suffering from some kind of poverty:

  • a poverty of spiritual intimacy
  • a poverty of being
  • a poverty of community
  • a poverty of stewardship.

We don’t fit right because we were shaped for something else.

“Compassion fatigue” occurs when we become less willing to help—because the recipients of your help fail to improve.

We must differentiate between:

  • Relief (crisis from natural disaster)
  • Rehab (restoration to positive elements before crisis)
  • Development (process of ongoing change that moves all the people involved—both “helpers” and “the helped”—closer to being in right relationship with God, self, others, and creation.)

Don’t apply relief when development is needed!

Avoid paternalism—doing things for people that they can do for themselves.

We are not bringing Christ to poor communities. He has been active in these communities since the creation of the world, sustaining them by the power of His word (Heb. 1:3). Hence, a significant part of working in poor communities involves discovering and appreciating what God has been doing there for a long time!

Change begins when something triggers an individual or group to reflect upon their current situation and to think about a possible future situation that they would prefer.

Three common triggers:

  1. A recent crisis
  2. The burden of the status quo becoming so overwhelming that they want to pursue change
  3. The introduction of a new way of doing or seeing things that can improve their lives.

“Never waste a crisis!”

Has anyone else had experience with this topic? In what context?

My parents’ home in Zambuk, Nigeria, as it looks today