How is the best way to help others when we see they are hurting? What is our role? What is our responsibility? What even, is our right?
I’ve been struggling recently with the dilemma of seeing friends suffer from what I can only describe as self-inflicted pain. For the majority of us (those not suffering from mentally illness which is a very real, very sad thing), emotional pain is a self-inflicted pain because whether it’s conscious or not, it’s a decision we make to feel disappointed, sad, overwhelmed, conflicted, etc. We can look at our surroundings and blame our thoughts, feelings, and situations on others, on people besides ourselves. We can react to the world as if it, not we, are in control. But that just isn’t true. What is it that we are ultimately in control of? What really is 100% our own to control? Our thoughts and our reactions. Or as Auschwitz survivor Viktor Frankl says, “our own attitude and spiritual well-being.”
We can only control our thoughts, our emotions, our beliefs…which means that yes…we control, or at least we have the ability to control, our emotional pain. We must recognize this awesome power that we have, because it is just that – an AWESOME power. We are in control of what we think about and therefore what we feel. Whether we stay in control or we lose control, our feelings and emotions are controlled by our very own doing.
So when we see others suffering from emotional pain, how can we help them knowing that we can only control ourselves? We can’t walk the walk for anyone else. We might be able to carry them, but the threshold is still theirs to cross…when they are ready, if they ever even become ready. How then can we help? Having spent a lot of time thinking about this, here’s how I’ve decided to help…
Four Step Guide to Helping Others:
- Greet with love and without judgment
- Say the words “I Believe in You”
- Set personal boundaries
- Hand them their reins
The only way to help is to greet people – all people, those you love and those you don’t yet know you love – is with love. It is not our responsibility, let alone our right, to impose our will and judgments onto others (I’m talking about adults here, as opposed to our own children…they are fair game. LOL!). When offering help, extend your love and not your opinions.
Likewise, when we make the bold proclamation “I believe in you” it helps people realize that we are never alone. We all having a cheering squad, even if it’s compromised of one – The One. God created us. God remains with us always. We are truly never alone. But hearing those words, “I believe in you,” may be the most encouraging words we can ever offer.
Why set boundaries? Because without boundaries, others may try – intentionally or inadvertently – to hand us their burdens and baggage, or worse, harm us with it. Sure – the line in the sand can and should shift over time, but when we feel like someone else’s actions are causing us pain, the only logical thing we can do is move the line. Set a new boundary. That’s our role and responsibility to ourselves.
We can talk to our loved ones and express our genuine desire that they stop hurting themselves or allowing others to hurt them. We can offer our arms, shoulders, ears, and even our pocketbooks for support. We can be the person and make the decisions that we hope they make for themselves. We can lead and hope they follow. But we have no ability to change others. We can only change ourselves and want that change for ourselves.
So what can we do when we see others suffer? Love them, believe in them, set boundaries, and hand them the reins. Because when we are ready, when we want change, we can take what is and has always been ours – the reins to rule our world.