There is a scene at the end of Star Trek Nemisis where Data boards an attacking vessel to help Captain Picard who has already taken a one-way trip to destroy this ship and protect his own. Having reached Picard, Data takes over the situation, rescues Picard and his shipmates but ends up seemingly being destroyed/dying. It’s a bit more complicated than that but basically Data gives Picard no say in whether Picard is okay with Data actions or not.

During the workshop I attended on Constellations,  a situation was discussed where a father was sensing that his daughter-in-law was resistent to being helped and wanted to work out what he was doing wrong. There are many possible reasons for this but one might have been that the daughter-in-law was interpreting the offer of help as a criticism on how she was coping. Making the offer of support everytime he met the daughter-in-law may be exacerbating her feeling of inadequacy.

I could cetainly understand such a point of view. I think it was one that I learnt growing up because support in general was not given to me in a direct manner. This doesn’t mean that support is not needed. When I was put on the transplant list, it was an indication that my doctors felt that I had less than a year to live. Over the next nine months as I waited my health deteriorated and with three young children, my wife and I struggled to keep our life routine going. Thankfully we had friends and family who were more than willing to help out, but, my wife and I had to learn to ask for help. Asking for help does not come naturally but it is a vital skill to learn in order to keep our dignity.

It is difficult to stand on the side and watch others we care about struggle. What I learned from the constellation work, was that by rushing in to offer help, we are taking away something from that person. We are taking away a bit of their automony and dignity. In extreme cases we may be removing one of the few things they can do for themselves (an infirm person getting off a chair perhaps).  I am not saying that we shouldn’t offer to help others, but I think it is important that if we do, then make it clear why we are doing it. For example, “I think I would find it really difficult to go through what is happening to you, do please let me know if there is anything I can do to support you” or perhaps “I am feeling uncomfortable and helpless at the moment, do please let me know if I can do anything to help”.

Do offer help to others, but let them decide whether and when it is needed. I remember being offered a car but a family member when I was first married, in those days I didn’t need it and so said no thank you. The offerer took offense at this refusal, but I was just saying no to the car, not rejecting the person. Maybe if was short-sighted of me but it was the right decision at the time, only once I started having kids of my own, did I discover that a car was handy after all.

I am sure that Data felt he was doing the right thing when he rescued Picard. I think symbolically Data was showing that androids can become fully human and pay the ultimate price by sacrificing themselves for somebody they care about. However, I feel Picard also felt he was doing the right thing by sacrificing himself to save his ship and by intervening, Data disrespected that decision. Whether Picard was of sound mind when he made his decision is for another discussion though.