Should I offer to help?

My nephew lost his job. If I give him money, will it hurt his pride?

Published April 10, 2013 12:00AM (EDT)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       (Zach Trenholm/Salon)
(Zach Trenholm/Salon)

Dear Cary,

My nephew just lost his job, the second time in two years. He held his first job for almost 20 years and then in 2011 his company cut back. He got a second job, but this has not worked out. I was also unemployed in 2011. My nephew offered me financial assistance and he was the only family member who did. Fortunately, I did not have to take anything from him. I would like to help him now by giving him a check for $5,000 to help him get through this -- but will I be hurting his pride? Should I just stay out of it?

Generous but Sensitive

Dear Generous but Sensitive,

Was your pride hurt when he offered to help you? It sounds like you felt grateful -- and surprised that he was the only one in the family who offered. Perhaps he will feel as you did.

Why didn't the rest of the family offer to help you? Were they thinking, "Oh, don't offer to help, it's a matter of pride"? A lot of good that did.

So offer to help. Offer to help and if you are refused then find little ways to help anyway. Find things you can do. It may be that a lump sum of $5,000 is not needed yet, but let him know the money is available if he needs it.

Are you wondering what to say? Just say that you remember how much it meant to you when he offered to help you, and that you are now doing the same thing.

What kind of pride would be hurt by a loving offer of help? What kind of pride is that? It that a good kind of pride? Or is it pride based on illusion?

What kind of illusion? It is the illusion that nothing bad will ever happen and that we are perfectly fine. It is the illusion that we can handle everything on our own. It is the illusion that we are so capable, so competent, so special and so lucky that we could never lose a job. It is the illusion that no matter what global transformation is taking place in the economy it will not touch us. It is the illusion that our company will save us, that we are so valuable to the company that no matter what happens, our job will be safe.

The kind of pride that rests on such illusions is best lost, and the sooner the better.

What I would wish for your nephew is the kind of pride that allows him to say that yes, he lost his job, and yes it was painful, and yes, he knows it wasn't about him, and he is grateful that he has people around him who will offer to help.

By Cary Tennis

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