The rescuer mentality, and how to break this role in our lives

by Andrew Chidwick

Are you someone who loves to help? That’s great! But do you take on the responsibilities, burdens, and problems of other people, and care about other people’s lives, problems, and decisions more than your own? Well, in modern psychology, we call people like that “rescuers,” which is a very common but unhealthy mentality we can pick up when helping other people and is very common amongst Christians because we are called to “help one another.” 

Look, helping people isn’t bad. Seeing peoples problems and not ignoring them is what helps define humanity. So, why is a rescuers mentality bad? Well, rescuing people becomes a problem when:

  1. We try to help when it is not asked for or wanted. (The person we’re helping feels imposed upon);
  2. We help others so that WE look good or feel good about ourselves;
  3. Or a very common one: we help someone even though we don’t have the energy to help, and do more than our fair share of work.

Rescuer mentality, although is done with well-meant intentions, can actually end up being very damaging. Because whether we recognize it or not, rescuers are actually focusing on themselves while helping others.

People rescue because rescuing feels good. Rescuing can actually be an addiction that comes from an unconscious need to feel valued and needed because there’s no better way to feel important than to be the saviour! Taking care of others can be the way rescuers feel worthwhile. Rescuers want to feel responsible for making a situation better, all in an attempt to feel in control. And feeling valuable, worthwhile, and in control feels goooood. BUT RESCUING IS IDOLATRY because we’re putting ourselves first and idolising ourselves and our helpfulness. So our drive and desire to help can actually end up being sinful! 

So how do we help without being a rescuer!? The line between being a rescuer and being helping in a healthy way can often seem like a thin line, but it’s important to learn the differences, especially as a Christian. Instead of being a “rescuer”, you can be a “coach”. A coach:

  1. Doesn’t offer advice without seeing if it is wanted first;
  2. Coaches are careful when they help, not taking over but helping from the sidelines;
  3. Coaches encourage and empower. They do what they can do to help the person solve THEIR own problem because that’s how real lasting change and discipleship happens, rather than rushing in to announce the supposed solution and fix it ourselves.
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