This morning I read "The laborer's appetite works for him; his hunger drives him on." (Proverbs 16:26), and it got me thinking how often I try to blunt the pain of others when it actually would be better to let them deal with it themselves. I feel sorry for the hungry person or my financially strapped son and I want to plunge it and fix it so they'll feel better. And sometimes this is necessary; to not act now could result in disaster later - starvation or a serious financial crisis. But other times my intervention short circuits the natural process which drives the hungry person on to feed himself. In these situations, I end up doing more harm than good, creating dependencies that make it harder in the future for a person to take the necessary initiative to care for himself. There are times when I need to ask myself "am I wanting to help this person because he really needs the help, or because it makes me feel good to be a helper?" and, if it's the latter, to stick my money back in my pocket and let him take the actions on his own that will ultimately help him to grow up into a healthy responsible maturity.
Update: It's worth saying here that my son hasn't asked me for any help. He's handling his financial issues very responsibly. My desire to "help" is more a wish to "spare him the pain," which reflects more on my needs than it does on his.