Tip/Thought of the Day

Sometimes the Real Question Is, “Should We?”

In our rush to help out we don’t always stop to think:

“Should we?”

When we see someone stranded on the side of the road, most of us are quick to offer aid. Even if it’s just calling for assistance.

Groceries spill onto the ground? Most strangers will stop and pick them up with you.

Someone on crutches is struggling to get through a door, of course we help.

Need to jump a battery? I’m ready with cables. 

All wonderful, Good Samaritan responses.

And if the aid isn’t required, we can just walk away knowing we offered.

But what happens when that help is not wanted, or in many situations, not in the person’s best interest?

Who among us can sit idly by and watch someone we care about fail? Especially when we’re sure we have the answers.

From how to dress, what to watch on TV, how to better spend money, marriage concerns, career goals… offering our expertise is often a knee-jerk response. But when is this not only inappropriate, but actually unhealthy?

Some are obvious.

My mother used to claim a person couldn’t have possibly seen themselves in a mirror before they left the house or they wouldn’t have made the fashion choices they did. Sure! 

They just didn’t coordinate according to her taste and whether she agreed with their ultimate decisions, using that as a reason to show them the way was hardly appropriate. But, regardless of etiquette, she was adamant her input would improve their day.

As a newlywed I was once coached to “accidentally ruin that horrible dress shirt in the wash.” In her mind the problem was solved. She never understood it brought up so many others.

A wealthy aunt was always quick to speak out when she thought someone made poor economical decisions. She was sure her loving, well meaning but unsolicited advice and life experiences would prevent catastrophes. Most disagreed, vehemently.

Many are quick to comment on decisions that impact a loved ones life. As parents, family or good friends it often feels like our duty.  How can we stand by and not say something when they’re making such an obvious mistake? It’d be tantamount to watching an impending car wreck and not stepping in!

Or what they tell themselves.

But the real question is. . .Why are they speaking up?

Is it because they see that decision as impacting their own future?

With children it may not reflect well that their child is pursuing painting instead of law. Or living in an apartment with five roommates while they “find themselves.” 

Or perhaps fear their child won’t be able to support themselves and will constantly ask for money or a place to stay. 

Wanting grandchildren to love, hold and spoil.

A spouse scared to death change will bring financial disaster.

Or friends, family, spouses who worry a new direction will mean an end to the relationship.

Keeping someone from aiming higher never works.

Shooting for the stars can be exhilarating and frightening at the same time. For those looking from the outside in, it may seem silly, ridiculous, a fool’s dream or a scary option that may not include them. Destroying a dream never improves a relationship. It just festers. Leaving a constant reminder of what might have been.

Woulda, coulda, shoulda are haunting questions.

Regardless of good intentions, unless health or welfare issues are at the core, letting others make their own choices, and then deal with the consequences is what life is all about.

Our successes and failures teach us invaluable lessons.

Most admit they learned far more from their failures because they made us work harder for the ultimate success. Forcing us to look at our path, decide if it’s truly the right one to follow and if the answer is yes, change tactics and pursue it harder. If the answer was no, quitting was their decision.

Not someone else’s.

Only then are the consequences their own.

Otherwise it’s too easy to blame others for setbacks in life.

“It wasn’t my fault, my parents made me do it.”

“I’d be a successful entrepreneur if it wasn’t for you.”

I was 19 when accepted to medical school after being encouraged to graduate high school at 16, then college in 3 years. The first semester I lost 10 pounds, weighing 100 dripping wet. I was exhausted and febrile, often getting temps to 101 degrees by evening. I was diagnosed with mononucleosis. Often known by its incorrect moniker- “the kissing disease” – it’s not contagious. I pushed through and finished that year but was left burned out. After much soul searching I realized it was time to stop, breath. My parents, who had generously supported my training, made it clear if I quit, the financial support was over. They were convinced the worse was over and once out I’d never return. Thankfully academic loans were easy to get at that time, so with the support of the dean of the medical school, I listened to my own heart and took a leave of absence. I returned a semester later energized and excited to be back.

Watching those we care about fall is never easy. We always want to help them up and then guide them in the “right direction.” Often with financial or emotional threats.

Removing that excuse and letting the chips fall where they may is difficult but a necessary part of growing up and taking responsibility for our actions.

Knowing we’re supported and cheered on by those we love, who will be there regardless of the consequences, can have a tremendous impact but ultimately the choice has to be our own.

Next time you feel the need to rush in and fix something or someone, ask yourself,

“Should I?”

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