Well, I finally did it, something I am rarely able to do. It took all the courage I could muster, but last week while having lunch with a friend I said it out loud. I admitted to my friend that I needed help. There, I said it again!! Do you have any idea how badly my masculine ego gets bruised by those words, to ask for help? But it wasn’t just any kind of help I was seeking such as asking for directions, changing a tire, or lifting a heavy piece of furniture. For the most part asking for that kind of help is fairly easy. No, this was a much more difficult request. I was wrestling with a problem you see and simply needed someone to listen, to offer a shoulder to cry on so to speak, and to understand.
Several years ago a number of books hit the market attempting to explain the differences between men and women. A couple of the more popular titles were You Just Don’t Understand by Deborah Tannen and Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus by John Gray. One of the authors – I forget which book it was – had a theory that suggested that when men have problems they just want answers. Women on the other hand are not so much looking for answers as for someone to listen and understand. Now with all due respect to the writers of these books which I found quite insightful by the way, they may have over-stereotyped the two genders just a bit, for based on my own experience such as the one I just described, it seems to me that the emotional needs of men and women may not really be all that different. Some men like me, though, don’t want to admit that.
To illustrate my point, my friend’s surprising response to my plea for help went something like this: “Gee, I never realized you needed help. You always seem to be so self-sufficient, capable of working things out on your own. I just assumed you would work this one out on your own as well.” (Was I doing a great job of hiding my vulnerability or what?) After that remark my friend became quiet and simply listened – unconditionally, without judgment or criticism – and with a genuine sense of understanding. At the end of our lunch he thanked me – thanked me! – for bearing my soul to him. I was touched! And it taught me something, that it’s not nearly as difficult to ask for help as I had thought, to surrender my vulnerability, especially when there is a close friend nearby who is willing to listen unconditionally – and to understand.