When When Helping Hurts Hurts

This just in…

A regular reader recently brought to my attention an update to the Wikipedia summary of the book When Helping Hurts that has a significant development in it.

According to Wikipedia, Brian Fikkert, co-author of When Helping Hurts, confesses that a drawback/regret he finds with his book is a phenom called “When Helping Hurts paralysis”.  It turns out that after reading his book, some people get so keyed up about getting charity wrong that they just stop helping at all.

Ya think?

Actually, there are far deeper problems than just that, but of course acknowledging even that much is a start.  We can hope, anyway.  I won’t get into all of the complexity he could address in this post, but just point out that even the top proponents see the mess they’ve made of loving the poor.  The result is that in trying to act like we really judge our own “misguided” (even if it happens to be perfect obedience to Jesus) way of showing love to the poor, we really wind up judging the poor as unworthy of our love.

How ironic?

Get a smokescreen up, create a fog in people’s minds about giving to the poor, and a significant number will just throw in the towel and quit giving altogether because trying to sort out what is really helpful or not is just too hard.


Go figure.  That alone should be enough to send these guys back to the drawing board.  Wish they would spend more time actually watching and listening to Jesus.


  1. John Lewis · August 30, 2018

    So many ways to help…so much stress in helping? Think I’m going to read the prior post…


  2. Michael Bolstler · August 30, 2018

    I think the problem isn’t so much that the paralyzed helpers throw in the towel, it’s that they start trying to whip me with the towel, in order to remind me that anything I could possibly do for the poor is futile, because this one time, after reading this book, they realized that the way they have been trying to help the poor is hurtful.

    I am under no illusion that I am actually helping. when I for example visit my local tent city. But I at least know that when I bring along some snacks, and a couple cold sodas on a hot day, and just share the salty processed goodness and chat with people, I’m not hurting anyone.

    It all comes back to the Golden Rule, and the guy who lived it: unfortunately many still misinterpret it to mean: ‘Treat poor people like you would want to be treated, if you were a drug addicted deviant, unfit to make his or her own decisions about anything.’

    Dummies: Treat each homeless person like they were Jesus, not like they need to know more about Jesus, and your chances that they will one day seek Him out greatly increase.


  3. Spy Vs Spy · August 31, 2018

    Clearly the majority of reviewers herald the “When Helping Hurts”.. point of view. So, it seems they are blinded to the very concern that the original authors found a significant concern.

    One wonders why these reviewers were not be more even handed in their reviews?

    Secondly, the viewpoint of “Where Helping Hurts” has value and calls into question outreach efforts that have blinders on focusing on material support while missing or ignoring the non-material support.

    Of course Jesus fed thousands and did not follow up with community services, right? He fed the hungry and tied that to his preaching ministry to be sure! Does that make him an “enabler” so denigrated by Social Work theory?

    Seems to me that the full-bodied well rounded outreach does not rule out other more narrow focused efforts, but together they broaden the overall outreach efforts.

    A historic leader in my heritage used to say….”Lighthouses don’t compete.” Ahh, but when concerned about gathering possible funds and do compete for that money. Maybe the bigger organizations might use their doctrine as it is the only useful effort. (Bullying?)

    Again, where have the questioners/reviewers been, and has real honesty been sacrificed?


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