It can be difficult to watch people struggle, especially someone we love and care about. Our first response is likely to want to fix or save them.
However, consider the following:
- In our struggles are lessons. If we rescue others (or wait for rescue), they (we) can miss the lesson that is waiting for them (us). That lesson may keep them (us) from making the same mistake over again.
- When we practice taking responsibility for our lives, we learn that we are strong and resilient as we come out on the other side. We not only rob someone of that feeling of accomplishment when we rush to rescue, we keep them from building their self-confidence.
- We are not the Happiness Police. It is not our job to make sure everyone around us is happy. Sometimes we need to be unhappy or angry or frustrated or ...insert feeling here... Sometimes we need to let others be in and work through their stuff.
- Rescuing creates dependence. Are we afraid if this person becomes independent they won't need us anymore? Do we get our self-worth from taking care of them? We need to address our motives when creating this dynamic in a relationship.
- Rescuing and trying to fix sends the message that they are not capable of taking care of themselves.
What CAN we do?
Let them know that they are not alone and the door is open if, and when, they need support. It's up to them to walk through that door, it's not our job to carry them through.
Allow them to practice asking for what they need rather than trying to figure it out for them. Be empathetic, listen and try not to "fix" their problem.
What if YOU are struggling?
Ask yourself, "What do I need to process these thoughts and emotions?" Then practice reaching out to someone who is "holding the door open" and make a request for support.
It's amazing what happens when we are given the space to feel how we feel with no judgement.
I'm reminded of the story about a butterfly. (Take a moment to read Paulo Coehlo's version of the story below)
If we want to fly, we must first be willing to struggle out of our cocoon.
What's harder, sometimes, is we must allow others to do the same.
The Lesson of the Butterfly
December 10, 2007
By Paulo Coelho
A man spent hours watching a butterfly struggling to emerge from its cocoon. It managed to make a small hole, but its body was too large to get through it. After a long struggle, it appeared to be exhausted and remained absolutely still.
The man decided to help the butterfly and, with a pair of scissors, he cut open the cocoon, thus releasing the butterfly. However, the butterfly’s body was very small and wrinkled and its wings were all crumpled.
The man continued to watch, hoping that, at any moment, the butterfly would open its wings and fly away. Nothing happened; in fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its brief life dragging around its shrunken body and shrivelled wings, incapable of flight.
What the man – out of kindness and his eagerness to help – had failed to understand was that the tight cocoon and the efforts that the butterfly had to make in order to squeeze out of that tiny hole were Nature’s way of training the butterfly and of strengthening its wings.
Sometimes, a little extra effort is precisely what prepares us for the next obstacle to be faced. Anyone who refuses to make that effort, or gets the wrong sort of help, is left unprepared to fight the next battle and never manages to fly off to their destiny.
(Adapted from a story sent in by Sonaira D’Avila)