Don’t help them

​The best way to help someone is to not help them.

Not directly anyway.

In the American Civil War, William T. Sherman was able to relieve the pressure on General Grant’s forces, not by bringing his forces to and fighting alongside him, but by applying pressure elsewhere.

Sherman’s campaigns in the Carolinas, dubbed the “march to the sea”, relieved the pressure Grant was facing from the Confederates in Richmond.

The Germans towards the end of World War II were facing opposition from multiple directions. They were wary of Allied landings along the length of the French coast. They were being driven out of Russia. They were losing ground in their African campaign. And they were dealing with an Allied landing in Italy.

Had all the Allie’s efforts been concentrated on one point, they wouldn’t have succeeded. But they weren’t. Their designs to land on the French coast helped their landings in Italy. Their momentum in Africa helped their other efforts.

Indirect aid is better and more powerful than direct aid. 

If someone needs money, it’s often wiser to help them figure out how to make more than it is to just give it to them.

When someone offers you money because you’re in a tight spot, it’s hard to take. You have to swallow your pride. You are also now indebted to that person. And when you mix injured pride with indebtedness you get resentment. The relationship sours.

By giving direct aid, you can also create dependence. The recipient now sees you as the solution to their problems. You’ve started a dangerous precedent.

On the other hand, indirect aid teaches. You give the recipient a chance to understand how to solve the problem themselves. You help them see how the problem took root and grew. You also create less of a debt. You don’t damage a sense of pride. Therefore, you inspire more goodwill and strengthen, rather than weaken, your relationship.

If someone asks for help, don’t give it directly. It won’t help them or your relationship with them. Instead, look for an indirect, and in the long-term, a more beneficial way to help them bypass their obstacles and relieve the pressure.