Are you helping or hurting that troubled friend?

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.



Motivational Speaker Kelly Swanson - called one of North Carolina's funniest women by Our State Magazine. Kelly lifts the spirits of audiences from coast-to-coast using humor, storytelling, and lives of the characters from Prides Hollow - Kelly's make believe small town. This unique approach to motivational speaking allows Kelly to break through communications barriers and connect directly to the audience's imagination.
Her powerful stories and wacky wit will make you laugh, remind you that you matter, show you how to see beyond your obstacles, and teach you how to stand up and stick out in a crowded market.
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Motivational speaker Kelly Swanson's website

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  1. Kelly, what sage advice. As someone who is oftentimes loyal to a fault, this is a great reminder to me that letting go is often exactly what needs to happen. Because I'm such dear friends with my ex of 18 years, I have to fight this urge daily. I justify my reminders of his family's birthdays, days property taxes are due, and encouragement to get to the doctor for his sleep apnea.  I tell myself it comes from compassion and love. Truth is I'm still protecting him.

  2. Oh girl you know of what you speak. As a child of an alcoholic I cannot count the times I tried to save my mother. I didn't. I only delayed the inevitable. Thank you for this powerful message! 

  3. Are you speaking directly to me Kelly??  As a mother of two boys in their early 20's I go through this trauma of letting go on a monthly basis!  I'm getting better at it but the urge to steer and fix is ever-present.  Thank you for this valuable reminder.

  4. This is great information Kelly.  We are not responsible for others and their actions.  Sometimes, we as motivational speakers have really big hearts and want to help.  There is nothing wrong with that, we just need to have boundaries.  Thanks for making this clear to this trying to let go people-pleaser!

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