(this makes me laugh) kalilo
I think if we were all able to point to the hardest relationship in our lives, it wouldn’t be our spouses, our children, friends or even the haters. By far, the hardest relationships to maintain are those family members. It’s difficult to talk about because they’re, well, family but if we all could admit it, we would. We all have “that one” in our family. Some of us have more.
Somewhere along the way they made (or are continuing to make) a few bad decisions and life is pretty messy. Or maybe they never really had a good start and now it’s all catching up with them, whether the decisions were really their fault or not. The point is they’re a wreck and we have to help deal with it. It’s the most exhausting relationship than any I know.
We can’t not help because the truth is we love them. They’re family, after all. And family sticks together. Plus, we have to see them at the next family function so we can’t pretend they don’t exist, which is what some of us do with people in need.
But even if we want to ignore them, likely we do want the best for them. We want to see them succeed and have a good life–just do your work, eat dinner and go to bed like the rest of us.
So the problem is we can’t ignore them. We love them and want to help.
And listen, it’s good that we’re taking care of our families. Paul talks about taking care of family first in 1 Timothy 5:8 “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” We can’t save the world and ignore our family.
But we never know where to draw the line. At some point, our help turns into enablement. But, it’s so hard not to help because we hate to see them suffer.
I don’t have it all figured out. We struggle with this constantly. I need to remind myself of some lessons along the way and maybe you need them too.
It’s ok to say no. In fact, when someone is making bad, sometimes illegal decisions, it’s best to say no. Take a cue from the 80’s anti-drug efforts and Just Say No! Repeat it to yourself as often as necessary. Often we think because we’re alleviating a short-term problem we’re helping them, but in the long run we’re actually hurting them. In fact, we’re making this crazy cycle all the worse.
Handing out cash is one of the worst things you can do. The money can’t be traced to where it was spent, it’s easy to lie about it and a lot of times illegal things go down with cash. It’s just not good. If someone needs groceries, take them groceries. If someone needs a bill paid, by all means, go to the company and pay it. One time someone asked us for grocery money so we went and bought them groceries and told them they could come pick them up. They never came for the groceries.
Sometimes no isn’t enough and you have to walk away. Some people just need to get to an absolute bottom before they can build themselves up. It’s probably the hardest thing to do, but sometimes it’s for their best. Be clear about what you’re doing and why.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean trust. When that someone has done you wrong, it’s ok to forgive. It’s even ok to tell them you forgive them. In fact, I highly recommend you forgive your 77 times and tell them you forgive them. But it doesn’t mean you keep helping like you’ve been doing. You don’t trust them. Trust is earned and that takes time.
It’s ok to call them out on their crappy decisions. In fact, some people are screwing up just so someone will call them out. You’re not a bad person if you get someone in trouble for doing something bad. It takes courage to do that especially for family but sometimes it’s just what they need, and yes, want.
Offer truth and grace. Even if you call them out, offer some grace and hope too. My daughter’s 4th grade teacher demonstrated this to my daughter last year. She did very poorly on a test. I think she failed. She felt really yucky about it and the teacher called her out because she’d basically just been lazy. But she told her, “You know this feeling you’re feeling right now? Don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s in the past. But remember it because the next time you can work extra hard and know that you don’t want to feel this way again.” She didn’t pretend she hadn’t been lazy but she did show her how to move forward. Truth and grace. We have to do this for people more.
More often than you feel like it, offer a listening ear. Sometimes people make bad decisions just to get attention. They feel alone and don’t know how to escape and sometimes just a good conversation can dig them out of a hole. Just ask Antionette Tuff about this.
When appropriate, offer undeserved mercy and an astounding amount of grace. I don’t want to make this confusing with what I’ve said before but sometimes, people really do need loved on and spoiled more than they deserve. They need a glimmer of hope and a peek into what it really looks like when people love from a good place. You’ll have to be wise to know the best time to do this. When someone is making poor decisions, you can be taken advantage of and make things worse. But sometimes, it’s the exact right thing to do.
As you can imagine, knowing when to do one or any of these things take a lot of wisdom. We have to be on our knees and asking the Holy Spirit for guidance about when to step in and when to walk away. When to give and when to withhold. When to listen and when to speak.
But keep on loving, friends. It’s hard and messy work and will make you pull your hair out and cry a million tears, I know. But somewhere along the way we were screwy too and needed a love like this.