I believe humans are, in our nature, good.

I begin here because I am about to talk about helping others and anytime we talk about how we relate to others - whether in deep service or being a good friend - it seems important to begin with a good look at our assumptions about people. 

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A.S. Neill, author of "Summerhill" (see below) stated essential human-ness so clearly when he said that when children are left to their own devices they are "innately wise and realistic." He proved this at his Summerhill school by leaving children free of restrictions, including being obliged to go to school. What followed Summerhill opening of the educational cage door challenged and continues to challenge our views of troubled children. It showed that that without rules to control behavior, children gravitated naturally toward behaviors that were good and social.   

Roger Mills, the founder of the Center For Sustainable Change told me something similar when he said, "well-being is buoyant" in each and every person no matter what situation or their history. His project in Modello proved this was true and did so in challenging socioeconomic circumstances ... the kind most of us will never come close to facing.

I wanted to lead with this as a clear, fundamental assumption of our human nature because in relationships with one another, where you stand on this changes everything:
  • how you listen
  • what you hear
  • what you say
  • what you don't say
  • what you do next 
It changes the very definition of what you think is happening in the moment.  If you think you are having an issue, it changes the nature of how to see and define that issue and as a result, the solution.  It has a profound affect on how you help others and what you think you are helping. It changes the nature of the moment itself. 

In fact I will go to far as to assert that what you assume to be true about the nature of people even affects another person's ability to think clearly in your presence!

As we watch the people we care about live in the troubled waters of their daily lives, the impulse to help, to advise, to try to alleviate another's suffering is a constant invitation.  Everyone, including me, falls into the temptation to try to help another out. We like to lift their moods, solve their issues and take away their discomfort.  We have many overt and covert ways of doing this. 

But our impulse to help can be an very unhelpful thing. 

I remember one day when I had been particularly involved in trying to help by listening and offering my "cheer up" approach. I was startled to realize that everything I was saying was totally selfish. It was all for me. I wanted this person to be happy, not for themselves, but for my sake.  I wanted them to feel good so I could look at them and not feel bad.  Ultimately, I had to admit to myself, I had my best interests at heart, not theirs.  

If I had begun this same interaction by remembering that all people have essential qualities that include a tendency toward buoyancy of well-being and inner ability to solve one's own problems, I would have approached it differently:

I would have dropped all my devices and just loved them.

I would have looked beyond what I was seeing toward their true nature. 

If you are a coach, friend or parent, loving people isn't difficult, it's just that it strips you of anything to do.  Maybe we have a hard time with this. Loving in the sense I'm talking about, that is recognizing the person within, is not a "doing."  

When we are doing love, we are probably not being love.    

And what is the inner nature of us all if it is not Love itself? 

There is nothing for Love to do, except perhaps look for itself in the other.   Love is the recognition of wholeness in the other and the understanding of their capacity to see for themselves, in their own time and in their own way. 

Ultimately, love allows the other all of their joys and sorrows and does not pretend to know what is best, what is good or what is needed.  It never tries to take over for the wisdom of another. It can be there no matter what is happening. And it feels good. 

A Course in Miracles asserts that everything we do is either "love or a call for love."  This is a fairly high vocation for anyone and probably the single most important thing you can understand if you are a parent, lover or friend.  

It is the great peace-maker, not just in our relationships but in our internal environment. 

For those of you reading this who are coaches, it will remove your role as "helper" and turn you into someone whose presence is a true help to others.