As motivational speakers we get a window into the pain of others. And today I want to address what seems to be a common theme in the hardships of the people I meet and love. And that theme is seeing someone you love make bad choices. There are times in our lives when we watch someone we love head down a very troubled path. (There but by the grace of God go I.) And we find ourselves wanting to do everything we can to help them – to save them – to protect them – to keep them from falling. And sometimes what we are doing is in fact the opposite. By "protecting" them, we are actually creating this warm cozy environment for them to continue their behavior, where they experience no consequences for their actions. This often does not stop the problem, but actually allows it to continue, or even grow worse.
And so to my hurting friend out there who is still trying to save that troubled person – please hear me as I gently whisper: You can't block their fall. Sometimes it's that fall that will actually save them in the end. By protecting them, you are making them feel safe to continue their behavior, and taking away their incentive to change.You can't be accountable for them. The only way someone can save themselves is to take ownership of their own life. You can't fix people. And as much as it hurts, sometimes you just have to step back and let them go. And if you are saying, "But if I leave they won't make it." I gently ask, "Have they gotten better because you stayed?"
I'm fully aware that every situation is different, and not for me to judge or understand. And that there are people far more qualified than me to address these issues – to which I urge you find them. I am not the one coming to you with answers. I am simply the one coming to you with a different perspective. And telling you that their actions are not your fault.