Ask Amy: Mom is rebuked for being a rescuer

Dear Amy: I have lived my life trying to help people.

I have “gone to the rescue” many times to help people who were needy or suicidal or addicted and in need of therapy or treatment.

And it does make me happy when I think I have been able to help someone.

Recently one of my children told me that since I derive happiness from helping others, that I am really selfish and that my actions are no more laudable than other people who pursue happiness through other selfish means.

The idea shocked me.

What do you think?

— Shocked Mom

Dear Shocked: “Selfish” is probably the most pejorative word to describe your tendency to rescue people, but your child is obviously trying to make a point.

You are behaving in a way that satisfies your own needs, but on the selfish-scale I’d put your behavior way ahead of, say, someone who ignores the desperate cries of others.

Those who need rescuing are no doubt grateful for your so-called selfishness, but a true “rescuer” derives her sense of self through rescuing others.

The point being that this identity might prevent you from relating to people who don’t have Big Problems, and you might neglect some people in your life (this child, for instance) who would love to have your full attention without having to be in crisis in order to get it.

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