“Oh, look! There’s a soul in trouble! I must reach out to her. Look, there’s an outstretched hand. I sense his need. I know I can offer some sort of comfort. I’ve got room on my list of priorities. It won’t take much. I’ve got kindness to spare and a few extra moments in my day.”
Is there anything better than helping one who wants help? Is there anything more gratifying than listening with compassion, being asked for help, and providing words or actions that make a difference?
(As I typed those last words, I thought of the few times I’ve been able to genuinely help, and how I felt so connected to the whole, when doing so.)
An INFJ knows that helping is not about being acknowledged for making a difference. We prefer to help from the sidelines – anonymously. We relish being a quiet, but equally essential cog in the wheel.
And just like a crow finds a child’s lost, sparkling unicorn charm tucked under the Kinick Kinick on a hillside path, a needy soul finds an INFJ. If that needy soul craves from a deep, dark, endless cavern of need, the INFJ kicks the counseling, the giving, and the listening into high gear. Her list of priorities changes. She makes adjustments to create room for this new endless need. She won’t short-change the other needy souls, but she will find deep pockets of giving, and freely offer more. Remember, she can’t help it. This is in her wiring.
Now some of the less needy souls will be helped. They will hug the INFJ, laugh and say, “How did you know? How do you do that? How do you know where I’m heading, and then shine a light where I need it most?” And the INFJ laughs and says, “I wish I knew. I don’t know where that comes from. I can’t say it comes from me. I suspect it comes from something much bigger than me. It’s not mine to keep, so I give it freely.”
But once in awhile – perhaps, far too often – an INFJ comes upon a needy soul who cannot be helped. Sadly, the INFJ rarely knows of the futility of helping this needy soul. The INFJ greets this one with the same compassion and warmth as the other “helpable” souls only to learn that this soul’s need is bottomless. And so the INFJ soon finds herself pulled into the dark, murky depths of this never-ending swamp of need.
Her other relationships suffer. As she isolates herself to make more time for the demands of this needy soul, she drains her pockets of any reserves. Her health suffers. She loses her calm. She moves away from her center as her mind becomes scrambled with all the noise resulting from her desperate desire to help.
She loses herself.
In her involuntary need to help, she forgets to help herself.
If you are observant, you might see your INFJ friend struggling in the depths. You may even extend your hand to offer help. Don’t be surprised if the INFJ shakes his head and says, “I’ve got this. I’m fine,” as his head goes under the water for the seventh time.
Only the INFJ can decide when it’s time to let the needy one go. Only the INFJ can come to the point of realizing that he can’t help one who doesn’t want the help.
Somewhere around this point, as the INFJ dog paddles to the surface, gasping for air, he’ll crawl to shore. He’ll find a quiet spot in the sun to dry off and regroup. He’ll beat himself up for awhile. He’ll be mad at himself for not trusting his intuition back when his intuition yelled at him saying, “You can’t help this one! You are not everyone’s therapist! Make yourself a priority, dammit. Keep walking!”
He’ll take some time to evaluate his relationships. He’ll back away from some and invest more in others.
(At this point, if you happen to need from a bottomless cavern, you may hear the faint, but all to distinct sound of a door slamming.)
One sunny day will find him taking some slow, deliberate steps out his front door. He’ll cautiously venture out into the world.
He’ll be looking – because he can’t help himself – for new souls to help, armed with the hard-earned knowledge that he must always make himself a priority.