Bill Cottringer

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.” ~Dr. Seuss

I have been involved in the helping business on both ends of giving and receiving for nearly 5 decades now and here is my short list of what counts most in regards to truly effective helping. These five acts are the most important things we all want for ourselves and need to learn how to give others abundantly and effectively, to make a difference:

1. Idealistic unconditional love and acceptance of our whole “package,” flaws and all.

After you survive a few decades of living you are bound to experience moments of realizing complete love and acceptance—even when you are at your worst—from pets, other humans, life in general and ultimately God. This is probably the most accurate and complete image of God—giving us unconditional love and acceptance, no matter what.

Misperceptions of this love and acceptance are just that—misperceptions. Look long and hard enough and you can’t miss these things being very real. Of course none us can match the Creator’s super ideal demonstration of patience, tolerance and ability to love and accept unconditionally, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try and grow our ability to move towards this ideal approach to love and acceptance, even knowing it may take a whole lifetime of effort. I believe this is the main meaning of the Biblical phrase, “Man is made in God’s image.”

2. Simple and free expressions of compassion, even when they are not entirely deserved.

When we are down and out with our luck and shoulder-deep in a swamp full of hungry alligators—even when it may be mostly our fault for being there—we crave some ‘free” caring compassion, just to let us know someone cares about our problems, even if they can’t help us resolve them. Generous expressions of compassion from friends and family can take the awful sting away from the burden or trouble we have weighing us down, and help make things a little less worse, on the way to recovery of lost happiness and well-being.

3. Genuine empathy and true understanding.

All these other things have their place, but the real way to help others is by demonstrating your real empathy in understanding their world through their eyes—the real connection between humans. Obviously, getting to this level of empathy and understanding takes considerable experience with life’s roller coaster ride of pains and pleasures to build your database of things about which to be empathetic. Sometimes you have to stretch your imagination and see how you may have experienced similar situations that generally resemble the one that the other person is part of now to make the connection credible.

4. Occasional breaks, luck, give-aways and handouts.

Teaching someone to fish so they can have dinner every night is a noble deed, but sometimes just giving the other person the short version piece of bread, or even just a hug, may be what is most needed at the time. The trick is to not violate the basic truth that none of us really want something for nothing, despite our dreams of winning the lottery. Sometimes the caring give-away or handout can be the best stand alone help, but it usually becomes stronger when coupled with giving the person the honest opportunity to become responsible for owning a solution to making things better in the long run.

5. Kind, gentle and confident encouragement to keep improving into our best self.

This is probably more a “need” than a “want.” And of course it has to come after adequate acceptance, compassion, empathy and a few well-timed caring handouts, and built upon the person’s strengths and good points rather than pointing out parts of the package that aren’t quite neat, colorful or “correct” enough in other ways. We all know our faults and don’t need to be reminded of them. Plus there is enough evidence that would suggest efforts to improve weaknesses can be better spent developing main strengths further, or all skills risk becoming mediocre.

Be open to experiencing the ups and downs of life to build your empathy reserves, be generous with your compassion on your way to increasing your empathy, don’t be afraid to give hand-outs now and then and learn what longer-lasting helping really means. This will help close your own gap between where you are with your ability to love and accept others unconditionally and the ideal image we are all working towards.

Author's Bio: 

William Cottringer, Ph.D. is President of Puget Sound Security in Bellevue, WA., along with being a Sport Psychologist, Business Success Coach, Photographer and Writer living in the scenic mountains of North Bend. He is author of several business and self-development books, including his latest book “Reality Repair” coming shortly from Global Vision Press. Bill can be reached for comments or questions at (425) 454-5011 or