Archives for July 2011

There's a Difference Between Compassionate and Controlling Behaviour

Compassion for others, and empathy, is a good thing. What affects one affects all. We are all connected.

Where we get into trouble is when we take on the issues/problems of others’. It is not compassionate to tell someone else what to do or to try and live their life for them. As a matter of fact, its not fair to them, and it does nothing for either of you.

We can ‘be there’ for others if they need us, or if they ask for our help. The thing is, most of us have a tendency to want to help others without them asking for, or wanting our ‘help’.

There are so many examples of this. In relationships of all kinds. Of siblings, or friends, or spouses, or parents. Each and every one of us has come to this earth to experience certain things. Each and every one of us has within us the ability to make decisions and choices. Just because someone that you love is making choices that you do not agree with does not mean that they need your help. It does not mean that their choices are wrong. It may be the right choice for them at the time.

Even if someone you love is on drugs or is living in poverty, or is having some other ‘problem’, does not mean that you are required to ‘fix’ it for them.  How do you know that what you are thinking is for their highest and best good?  Why is it your business to live the life of someone else?

If they are an adult, they certainly have the capacity to make other decisions, other choices and change their life. You can change your life if you want, they can change theirs if they want. If they do not want to change, you cannot make them change. If they want change in their life and they need help, they will probably ask for your assistance. If they are in a really bad spot, they may ask you to ‘rescue’ them from a situation. You cannot rescue someone from something they have created. They need to make some different choices. You may be able to ‘assist’, but do not try to take control of their life, their situation, and make it your own. It will not work.

There are so many different examples of this.  I will provide a few, but what I am talking about is certainly not limited to what I have written here.

Example One.

There is a person you love who is using drugs and living a life you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy.  Once in a while an intervention might work, but if the person does not want help, whatever you do will not work. You can threaten, give them a place to live, give them 100 tools to get off the drugs, but they will find their way back to where they were if they do not want to live a ‘clean’ life, of if they have much deeper issues of self-worth. You can give them all the love in the world, but they will continually put drugs above all else, until they make a different choice.  Above their love for you, above their own well-being, above love for anything else.  All you can do is pray for them, send them loving energy and hold the intention that they get what they need for their own highest and best good. It is not up to you to decide what their highest and best good is.

Example Two.

I have known quite a few women in abusive relationships. I have even ‘helped’ two different friends get out of abusive situations. The thing with this is, that does not work either unless the person really wants out and asks for your help. Even then, it might not work.  I had a friend that was in an abusive relationship and she came over one day and had a tooth knocked out and had a black eye. She told me she wanted to get out of the relationship – badly. She oscillated back and forth from wanting to get out and blaming herself for her man’s anger.

I did what I could to help her to get out though. First, I called a shelter, told them about her situation, and then gave her the number for the shelter. The woman at the shelter told me that most women in that situation go back to the man. I didn’t quite believe it at the time, if someone had the opportunity to change something so awful, why would they go back? My friend did not call them though. Not right then.

The police ended up at her house one night and brought her to the shelter. She stayed there for a couple of weeks. She got her own place. I helped her to furnish her place and get it ready for her and her kids. I was happy for her, she was out.

I didn’t hear from her for about a month. I called and left a couple of messages, and sent emails but didn’t hear a peep. Then one day she called me and was living about 4 hours from here, she had a great job and was being promoted. Once again I was really happy for her.

Then a year went by and I didn’t hear from her. Once again, I tried to leave a message but her phone was disconnected. I sent emails but never got a reply. I bumped into a mutual friend that told me she had left the country for a while. Her family lived in the US and she was with them, once again I was happy for her. I did wonder though, why she wasn’t in contact with her good friends that loved her.

After two years of just hearing bits and pieces of what was going on with her, I heard that she was coming back into town to be with the man who abused her. She had kept in contact with him all that time. She didn’t keep in contact with those of us who loved her. We thought that she was just getting on with her life and was doing well (I know sometimes people need to cut off contact in order to start again).

I learned that she cut off contact with those of us who wanted to help her do it differently. She has made it glaringly obvious that she does not want our kind of help, or maybe she just isn’t ready for it.

This is a perfect example of how we cannot live other peoples lives for them. Some of her friends are actually still very angry at her for not taking the help that was offered. I’d be lying if I said that I understood it at the very moment it was happening. It was quite a while ago, but I think I was angry at first too. How could she do that? After all we did to help her, and she chose him over us? It made no sense.

I have since realized that she provided a valuable learning opportunity for me. Yet another one (I’ve had a lot of them prior to this which are different story’s altogether).

I can have love and compassion. I can pray that she gets what SHE needs. Not what I want FOR her – what SHE wants and needs for her. I can pray that she stay safe, and I can send her loving, healing energy. I just can’t try and take over her life for her and rescue her.

Would I do it again if I had another friend in the same situation? Or if she came to me really asking for my help. Yes, I would. In a second.  But for now, I will let her go. I will let her live her life as she wants to live it. Not how I would like her to live it.

Example Three

You have a family member that is living in poverty. You want them to have a better life and have what you have. You buy them groceries, pay their rent, even to the point that you leave yourself short or get into debt. This may be okay in certain circumstances. For example if they are just going through a tough spot. However, I see it all the time where a person that is completely capable of taking care of themselves relies on other people to get by.

When they have money they spend it on themselves and expect friends or family to take care of the “important” stuff, like hydro and food. Continually giving them money does not help them. It just keeps them stuck. Money is not love, you can’t tell someone what to spend their money on or where to work or how to live. Those choices are up to the individual.

Once again, this does not mean that you do not have love and compassion for that person, it means you love them enough to allow them to live their own life.

If they ask for help, perhaps you can help them.  Perhaps you cannot.  There is nothing loving about living someone’s life for them.  It is not helpful to get angry at someone because they are not living their life as you would have them live it.  That is called controlling.  There is nothing loving about trying to control someone else.  Love is allowing people to be and do and create what it is they want.

I would also like to make it clear that this does not apply to children, people who are mentally ill, or those who are physically unable to take care of themselves.