Doing FOR versus Doing WITH

Posted on March 24, 2019


“To love someone does not mean first of all to do things for that person, it means helping her to discover her own beauty, uniqueness, the hidden light in her heart and the meaning of her life.”
Jean Vanier Essential Writings, p.104

There is a huge difference between “doing FOR” someone and “doing WITH” a person. We cannot truly help another if we are constantly doing things for them because we are creating dependency. This is very subtle and easy to overlook. Helping is just helping, right? Well no.

We can help others while creating dependency. (doing FOR)
Or we can help others while nurturing empowerment. (doing WITH)

Nurturing empowerment approaches another person as a friend, and hence as a fellow human being of equal value.
Creating dependency skews the playing field and sets the helper up as “better than”.

Anytime we construct an image in our minds of inequality, we use a subtle form of violence to dominate that person. Our society and our systems are built on structural inequality that unconsciously foster dependence through domination because of a person’s status in life; whether because of disability, race, economic status, creed, orientation, etc.

Why? Because domination is much more efficient and effective in getting things done… in reaching outcomes. But the damage done to the individual human being is irreparable and inexcusable. Structural inequality (structural violence) sustains itself through its own invisibility and depends upon our lack of consciousness about the impact of HOW we do what we do.

“Doing something for someone that they can do for themselves is to weaken them.” (Kat Russell)

“Violence is anytime we violate the identity or integrity of another person” (Parker Palmer)