Isn’t it funny that most of us are only too willing to offer our expertise to others, or to help those in need, yet when it comes to asking for help for ourselves it’s a whole different scenario?
I wonder why that is? What is it about me that makes me want to be so self-sufficient? Is it perhaps that I don’t want others to think any less of me because of my inability to do something or is it something more than this?
Whatever the deep psychological reasoning behind this may be, I can see without a doubt that asking for help is one of the most challenging things I might do. The more personal the issue, the harder it seems to be to face up to the fact that I NEED HELP.
Facing up to the challenge
Unmanageable debt for many is one such issue. CAP clients will often say they felt like a failure, didn’t want to admit to it and therefore kept the debt hidden for years, forever placing a ‘sticking plaster’ over it: taking out yet another loan or going without meals in order to pay the rent or buy new shoes for the kids. But sticking plasters inevitably fall off, and the debt continues to deepen. At what point, I ask myself, would I dare to ask for help?
How difficult must it be for someone who struggles with unmanageable debt to take that first step of picking up the phone to find help. CAP’s own Client Survey 2021 shows that most people live with problem debt for two years before coming to us for help.
Feelings of despair, shame, guilt, hopelessness all add to the challenge. I recall one man who had maxed out 12 credit cards, keeping it a secret from his family and friends until his wife discovered a statement; she forgave him and called CAP for help. As we worked with the family, they took control of their finances with CAP’s budgeting and creditor liaison, we saw his shame dissipate and be replaced with a new confidence. It all started by bringing the issue out into the open.
In a strange sort of way, living with unmanageable debt can become the norm, meaning that many cannot imagine living without the weight of missed payments, spiralling costs, demanding creditors, going without meals etc etc etc. For me the phrase ‘security in the insecurity’ sums up this paradox perfectly; they simply can’t imagine, and perhaps think they don’t deserve, any other sort of life. But this is simply NOT TRUE.
People fall into debt for all sorts of reasons (unemployment, illness, relationship breakdown to name but a few) and it could happen to any of us, but not all of us have the ‘margin’ or ‘resilience’ in our lives to weather the storm. CAP’s attitude of non-judgemental support allows our clients to open up and share their stories with us. What a privilege it is to be the first person they’ve told about their debt and how great it is to offer a solution to them and see the transformation that follows.
Of course, Christians Against Poverty, is (in the words of our founder John Kirkby) ‘….what it says on the can’, we are Christians and as such believe that God’s agenda for those living in poverty is one of love and transformation. I believe it is He that makes the difference in a person’s life, His grace is sufficient and His love is unconditionally available to all who seek Him.
And so, we offer to pray with our clients, most of whom accept and are regularly astonished to be the recipient of a direct answer. One client, when asked if he thought God had anything to do with his family becoming debt free (having never wanted prayer) responded ‘Of course HE has; I wouldn’t be alive if it wasn’t for God! Before you (CAP) helped me I was suicidal, I didn’t know what to do, I had nothing and couldn’t provide for my family. But CAP turned us around – you were the answer to a very frightened prayer one night when I said “God if you’re there, please sort this mess out”.’ Soon after he saw a CAP poster in the library and called for help.
Taking that first step is always the hardest part. It’s a lesson for all of us, yet a humbling one when we hear of the plight of CAP clients as they face the reality of crippling debt that is turned around, setting them free of its weight and putting them on a path of hope for their future.
And so I challenge myself once more to humbly ask for help and then revel in the transformation that it brings.