2/05/2014

Step Back and Breathe


Ever notice how hard it is to pull back when someone you care about needs help and you want to help them?

Sometimes in life, those that are closest to us want to define what that aid is.  Their preference is to tell you what they want, not necessarily what they need. Big difference and often times, not a long-term solution but just a crutch for them, a temporary fix.  Through the trees in the forest, they may not even know what they need.  Even when we are in the midst of challenges we our our objectivity can slip away.  

Trying to give guidance to a loved one or dear friend when they are not receptive is frustrating.  It feels as if you are shouting above the ocean’s waves.  If your voice is heard, it may be met with anger, and  backfire.  They may see you an added stress especially if you are suggesting help they don't feel is what they need. 

As Christians, we are programmed to want to continue to reach out a hand of compassion to try to save a sinking ship, make someone’s life a little less painful.  We want to help others.  It is in our nature and it is what makes us human.  But we must define our limits. 


As a parent, I use to want to save my children growing pains by helping steer ‘their ship.’ I wanted to help them make decisions if it would save them major bumps in the road. I finally realized they didn't want my help with many of those. Actually, more often than not, they didn't need it either. Plus, some choices that aren't the best during the formidable years can be  learning lessons that stay with you for life.  They needed to experience that and gain the confidence in their own abilities to be a competent decision maker.  I was there for soften the fall. And just maybe there really is no gain without pain.

To some adult children, adulthood means no parental involvement in their lives at all.  Thus, they pull back from their parents at a time when the parents don’t want to be pulled back from.  No input needed, no output given. My friends and I have discussed this. Adulthood to them comes with a free pass to critique their parents’ parenting style and their parents as people.   All the efforts put forth in raising them are now put under scrutiny.  They fail to recognize the respect that is owed to elders, to parents but as life is truly short-lived, step away.  You can only live and control your life, not your kids, as it should be.

Kids, no matter the age, circle back around to their parents.  It is sad  that it takes some adults a serious illness or death of their parents to do so.  Being a cancer survivor, I can't understand not finding the time to bond with parents, no matter what the relationship is or was.  Closure should not be just because someone is leaving this earth and entering into heaven.   I suppose we all are a little bit guilty of getting caught up in our life and letting our elders get what is left of our time.  I think God is disappointed that a relationship has come down to a l courtesy call. 

On the flip side, some elderly parents want total independence, regardless of their mental or physical health condition.  This is the worst scenario to face for many adult children.  It feels somewhat disrespectful to say to a parent that they are incapable of caring for themselves.  But, reality is just that, their mental capacity is deteriorated and their health requires more hands on care than can be provided.  

As you try to reason with them, it is as if time has turned back and you have became the parent and they are the child. Rationalization is not working.  You try explaining the need and all they hear is the perception you are casting them aside like an empty useless bread basket.   One resolution after another you come up with is unsatisfactory.   And so the cycle continues, in reverse this time.  

Friends can misconstrue help also feeling as if it is owed to them.   After years of friendship, everyone should lend an ear to hear their woes over and over again.  Listening is one thing, asking for advice is another. But when it is repetitive, over and over again, that is over the boundary line.   We all know the type.   You give them your honest opinion, or not and yet, they keep calling and bringing the topic up and rehashing it over and over again.   Nothing changes until finally your caller ID spares you because you screen their calls. Being a friend does not mean you have to waste your time. Suggest getting a counselor or an action plan. If none is taken, pull back until they do.  You need a life too.   Don't be a codependent.  It reminds me of a man who asked me if I had a lighter at the hospital curb that was hooked up to oxygen and I said “Are you kidding me?”

We should not  overextend ourselves to the point where we are fulfilling others unhealthy bad habits. Kids have a tendency to want as much money as they can and all that money can buy.  Too bad it doesn't fall from the sky.  Giving in is not helping them appreciate working hard and appreciating the value of earning money and a work ethic.  It is far more important, if you truly want to help someone, to teach them how to be self-empowered to have a solution for their  problem than handing them one.  Self sufficiency is a beautiful blessed gift that is priceless.   
If this is met with criticism and someone just wants an easy out, perhaps you are helping someone who is not ready to be helped.  

Years ago, I was in a class with a woman in a counseling psychology class.  We had to tape all of our sessions.   We met at her house as she had the recording equipment there.  Early on she confided that her husband had been cheating on her.  Within weeks, her husband was home during our weekly sessions.   It was becoming uncomfortable as I was concerned he would overhear her talking.  Slowly the conversations began to turn and she admitted that she was cheating on him to get even. She then asked me to help her. She made it clear, at this point, that her idea of help was for me to sleep with her husband so that it would relieve her guilt as she was falling for the man she was now having an affair with.   Apparently, her husband had ended his affair when she had found out.   This was by far the strangest counseling situation I had ever been in and if allowed by my professor, I would have ran out of it!  

Needless to say, her idea of help was far different from mine. I urged counseling over and over again. If not marriage counseling, I told her she needed individual counseling. Don't ever change who you are or what you believe in to help anyone in dire need.  You can always pray from afar.  Some people that are in need don't even see it that way. I am not sure if she did or did not. I didn't stay around long enough to find out. 

You can keep the window open got others to talk to you perhaps,  but not the door. No one needs to be a doormat and get taken advantage of or stop living for the sake of someone down and out.  We are not responsible for others decisions with their life.   As I told my children, each person is given the right to make their own choices, provided it is not infringing on someone else’s freedoms.   We don’t have to like other people's choices but it is their right.  We don’t have to support them either.  We can give aid also,  but if it is repeatedly met with ungratefulness and no sign of recovery or positive steps towards improvement  we too can make a choice to discontinue the help..


Patience is a true virtue.  Time does change things, people and situations.  Plant a seed, let it
go,  and hope it grows.  I have seen children that were not in great situations turn out wonderful in later years.   I have seen the reverse as well.   Life is funny that way.   Just as important as helping others is recognizing and acting on when you should take a step back and let someone just be, even if it means the outcome might not be good.  Besides, you are not the predictor of the future.  None of us are. Just look at a bunch of baby pictures…hard to believe they all grow up and become someone’s mommy….

Perhaps this video {Click Here to View It} helps drives the point home that we are all different yet in many ways the same. Life comes at you fast and perhaps taking a hand someone offers you in assistance is worth considering from time to time. If it is smacked back, oh well, move on....




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