A Helping Hand

helping hand

Imagine this scenario:

A little kid is about to run out into a busy street.

He wants something in the street or on the other side. Maybe a ball he was playing with rolled into the street. Maybe he sees a friend he wants to visit on the other side. Or maybe the ice-cream truck is coming.

Whatever the motivation, the little kid starts running toward the street, paying no attention to the cars zipping past, oblivious to the danger–simply focused on what he wants.

He sprints across his front yard and onto the sidewalk, but just before he steps out into the street, a parent grabs his arm, preventing him from taking another step.

The kid is saved!


But is the kid relieved? Is he grateful? Does he drop to his knees and give thanks for life and for the parent who just saved him?

Not at all! Just the opposite:

He throws a tantrum!

He screams. He squirms. He tries to pull away. He vents his frustration as only a little kid can do.

After all, he’s not a happy camper. He’s incredibly angry about being prevented from doing what he wants to do, from reaching his goal (retrieving that ball, getting the ice cream, or whatever it was he wanted).

He doesn’t thank his mom or dad for saving his life. He doesn’t reflect on how fortunate he was that they stopped him. He doesn’t contemplate the grave risk he narrowly avoided.

In fact, he continues to struggle–trying to run out into the street. But, thank goodness, the parent holds on tight, keeping the kid on the sidewalk–still throwing a tantrum, but still safe and alive.

 Who do you identify with: the kid or the parent?

I’d venture to guess that we all side with the parent in this case. Despite the kid’s struggles and protests, we can see that it’s in his best interest to be stopped from running out into a busy street. The parent’s hand protected him from danger–and quite possibly saved his life.

It’s so easy to see in a case like this, yet how many times in our own lives do we fixate on a goal and a direction we want to move in, only to become frustrated and angry when we’re stopped? How often do we throw an adult tantrum (which might amount to nothing more than fuming inside or venting to a friend or spouse about an unfair situation) simply because something or someone is preventing us from moving toward what we want?

Yes, it is frustrating to have our desires thwarted. Nobody likes roadblocks and obstacles. We’d all like to reach our goals smoothly and easily, encountering as few snags and snares as possible.

But let’s consider another perspective:

What if those blocks–the things that get you stuck while you’re pursuing your goal–are like the parent’s hand? What if the very thing that you find so frustrating is actually stopping you from making a grave error? What if you’re being kept safe by a force bigger than you–one that you can’t understand from your present perspective?

It might not be a matter of life and death. Perhaps your situation is more like standing at a fork in the road, starting down one path, but being stopped and gently (or not so gently) guided in the other direction.

Maybe the road you were starting down didn’t lead to tragedy–it may just have been a dead end, or maybe it led somewhere undesirable, or maybe it did lead to a good place but was a much longer route than the alternative.

What if the forces that stop and/or redirect you are actually helping hands?

This is not to say that you should abandon your goals the moment you hit a bump in the road. Almost all journeys have unexpected twists and turns, detours and setbacks. Any goal worth pursuing is almost bound to come with challenges. (Although I must add that one of my favorite book titles is Life Was Never Meant to be a Struggle–a dictum that makes a pretty good life motto!)

If, however, you find yourself forced into a standstill or forced to change direction, if you find yourself struggling and straining to no avail, if you find yourself repeatedly frustrated by a lack of progress in your desired direction, perhaps it’s time to ask yourself:

  • What if the thing that’s stopping me is actually keeping me safe?
  • What if I’m being redirected in a healthier direction?
  • What if the thing that’s frustrating me right now is actually going to save me greater frustration in the long run?
  • What if the hand that holds me back is actually a helping hand?

If you feel like you’re being held back, maybe it’s for a good reason!

A little kid running toward a busy street might not be able to understand concepts like safety and danger. He might not have the emotional maturity to let go of frustration. He might not know how to consider alternative perspectives.

But you do!

Yes, sometimes an impediment is merely a challenge to overcome, a sign that you need to persevere to reach your goal. But it might also be a sign saying, “Wrong Way!”–or, to put it more positively: “Perhaps there’s a better way!”

It all depends on how you look at it.

Have you ever felt frustrated at being held back from a goal or desire? Do you think that whatever (or whoever) was holding you back might have helped you in the long run? Is there anything holding you back right now that you can look at from a different perspective?

Please feel free to share this post–and your comments! I’d love to hear your perspective and experiences!

Photo copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

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