After a very important conversation a couple of days ago, I’ve continued to reflect on the choices we all make to care for ourselves and the choices we make about how we care for or express our loving concern for others. I remembered a quote from a book I read more than ten years ago. I wrote down so that I could reference it again and again.
Sometimes the best way to love someone and the most important help you can give, is to leave them alone or empower them to help themselves.
– Neale Donald Walsch
I remember being a pit puzzled by the message, because I have always (over) cared for others. My giving and concern was somewhat misplaced, for many reasons. I either had too many things on my plate…and always made room for them, even when I needed rest; or I was sure I knew what was best for them (I always did my research). What I didn’t know during that period of time in my life is that my caring for some others in my life was overdone. I realized many years later that the frustration and anger I felt when choices were made that didn’t reflect what I knew to be best, that I was the only one suffering in that entire scenario. The emotional charge that we carry when we feel we have been betrayed or when we believe another person is not making the best choice for themselves, can make us sick, too.
There are some lines between assistance, presence, enabling and interference that we can only know about when we have created the time to consider these first for ourselves. Questions we can ask ourselves may include:
- Would I want someone checking everything I’m doing and then making judgements about my choices? They think I’m not aware of their feelings, even when I say nothing…I can feel their judgment. I can see it in their eyes. It’s on their face.
- Would I want someone to tell me what to do in any situation? I really wish to make my own choices. I don’t want someone else making choices for me. I really do not want to give my power to others who think they know better. I know ME better than anyone.
- What would I really want if I were facing a situation like he/she is? I would like to be able to make my own choices, and to be lovingly supported and accepted regardless of what I am choosing.
The greatest challenge in these situations is truly within us – deep within us. When we believe that our way is the best way, we can find ourselves in a situation where the people we are trying to help are doing things and making choices that we would never make for ourselves! We love them and want the very best for them. What we don’t consider is that they, too, have the power of choice. The choice to learn; to do their own research; to decide for themselves what they wish to do, be or have for themselves.
This is hardest to accept when we observe those choices to be unhealthy and potentially life threatening over time. And yet, it may be the challenge of a lifetime for us to step back, and allow another to make his or her own choices; and even more challenging, to support them in the choice they have made. I am not speaking about engaging in the enabling behavior that can lead us into co-dependence. By honoring the choices made, and supporting them where they are, we are simply honoring the other person, period.
We are here to help and support others. We are here to be of service in the highest and best way possible. We cannot do this from the very best part of ourselves, if we have not first done our own work to look within and get to know our triggers, our pain points and as Eckhart Tolle says, to recognize our pain body.
Caring for ourselves first, allows our loving support to emanate from the deepest, best part of ourselves – our hearts.