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Sunday, February 22, 2015

Understanding people where they are, but not going there...



I previously wrote a blog about accepting people where they are called "Accepting people for where they are".  A corollary one is understanding people, but not going where they are.  I've been previously in and I've had friends who have been in unhealthy relationships.  That has given a certain insight into understanding and relating to people.

(Refresh and repost of 2/22/15)

We each meet many people along life's road and most of the time we have to make a decision about how we want our relationship with them to proceed. How much energy, if any, do we put in a relationship with them?  We may get them on some level and may be able to appreciate where they are, but that doesn't mean we have to follow them there (or continue following them).

Pick an addiction--alcoholism, drug addiction, overeating, gambling, etc.  We often have faced similar demons in our life and we can on a deep level understand or relate to what another is going through.  There is even a tendency to want to reach out and help that person as you know their hurt.  They might have been abused, beaten, or otherwise hurt in their life.   You feel bad for them.  Having that sweetness of soul that you would care that much about another who has been hurt or is hurting is wonderful.  It says something about you that you have that much empathy.   However, it is always important to keep your wits about you when dealing with them.

As I see it, there are a few questions you need to ask yourself when determining what role you play in their life of a person who is struggling with a life issue.
  • Is the other trying to better him or herself?   That's the basic question.
    • In many cases, it isn't so much how quickly they are working to get healed, but rather if they are even trying.
    • Progress can be like momentum.  Sometimes a few small 'successes' in healing can lead to confidence to take larger steps, which in turn, can lead to even larger steps.  In other words, it's important not to misjudge the pace of another's recovery.  What appears to be a small step could in fact be a large step.  Ultimately, it boils down to do you have hope with them?
    • In some ways, stepping in to 'help' or 'be there' might turn into enabling them or keeping them from facing their demon.  I once had to step aside to let someone I was dating find herself.  Being her 'hero' or 'white night' was giving her an excuse not to 'find herself'.
  • Is where they are a place that is dangerous to you?
    • You can love and appreciate someone and be encouraged by their recovery, but if it jeopardizes your own, it is best to appreciate them from afar.
    • For example, say you and another struggle with a similar demons (such as alcoholism) or toxic-ally opposite demons (body image vs. porn).  If the other's recovery halting at best, you might appreciate or admire that they are trying, but realize that the other could still be very dangerous to you.  However, if they aren't in recovery all, then it goes without saying that they WILL be dangerous to you.
  • What can you do safely for them?  That's a followup to the previous point.
    • Can you go in the trenches for them?  That is, pick them up and dust them off when they fall or is that too dangerous.
    • Can you be a friend they can call when they are heading towards a bad place.  In other words, when they are "in their head", but haven't fully engaged their addict.  
    • Do you just have to completely stay away from them until they have hit rock bottom?  Sometimes, when people just aren't ready for recovery.  In this case, if you try to stand out in the middle of the road waving a caution flag, you risk them completely missing your flag or worse them running over you.
In life, you can overlook, forgive, 'forget' and come to terms with people.  You can understand and have empathy for the demons that are driving them, BUT that doesn't mean going going in the trenches with them.  Sometimes, you just have to let go and let God for those who you care most about.  You can understand their struggle, but sometimes for one or both of your sake, you have to step aside, no matter how bad or guilty you feel about it.  Some circumstances are just too big for you and God is better equipped to handle them.

As much as I'd love to blog happy blogs, I realize that's not where everyone is all the time.

Thank for reading again.

Rich