There are so many situations in my life I have wished I had gone around instead of through. Every now and then, they arrive, and, hopefully, I have the good sense to go around them rather than stepping into something that stinks! Like the skunk who lived on our farm last year, I chose to go around him. That was pretty easy. He was not interested in me at all and all I had to do was step away so that I didn’t end up on his bad side. However, had I made the mistake of getting too close, I would have smelled really bad and he would have moved on – totally unaffected.
Life brings many opportunities to be sprayed. Overhearing two of your friends conversing about friend #3; really not being part of the conversation; but – in you go and you live to regret it. Trying to help someone year after year and the only result is that you are drained and angry.
There’s a scripture for that (because God already knew what we would do) – “You grab a mad dog by the ears when you butt into a quarrel that’s none of your business,” Proverbs 26:17, The Message
I know we need to help others and bear their burdens. I also know there are times when we need to move away. Sometimes our help is simply disabling – you help to the point that they never learn about consequences or taking responsibility for themselves. You help people who have no intention of changing or growing – they want a bandaid and you have an unending supply. Don’t forget – I know we are to sacrifice for others – widows, orphans, the poor and the sick. I also know we are to walk in wisdom and wisdom dictates that we know when to stay, and know when to go. There are times when we should walk around some situations.
The Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37 stepped in to help an injured man others left laying in the road. He went the extra mile and provided for the man, then he went home. On the other hand, Jesus announced to the people in His own hometown that He was leaving because their lack of faith left Him unable to do any miracles there (my translation). He wasn’t being cruel. He simply pointed out the fact that you can’t change someone who doesn’t want to change or doesn’t have the faith for it. I worked with victims of domestic violence for many years and had to learn to set my own boundaries with them. Otherwise, unfortunately, some of them would have sucked the life out of me, my employees and the organization. Had I expended all my energy and money on them, I would not have been able to take care of all the others. I gave help and care to them, but put limits on it and on my own emotional involvement.
What people need is the truth and the truth may be just what they don’t want to hear. I’m not talking about bombarding them with Scripture, which is the truth. I’m talking about the truth about themselves and their situation. We don’t turn away from them because they don’t obey. Instead, we continue to have the hard but honest conversations with them. None of us are required to have someone else consume us simply because they refuse to make the necessary changes in their own lives.
There is a huge difference between unable and unwilling.
You don’t leave them starving, but you don’t buy them steak. If they can work, they need to get a job. If they can clean their dirty house, you should only show them how. Buy the soap, bleach, and rags the first time, have them do it with you. Then go home and don’t do it again unless they are ill or disabled.
I hope you understand what I am getting at here. I think we often know we should go around some situations but we don’t want to appear cold or uncaring. What if this is just not your field to plow or water? There is someone else who has all the right tools to do it. There are some stinky things I just can’t fix.
Maybe your job is just to plant a seed and never see it bear fruit.
I also have to remember that “I” can’t change anyone. I can love them enough to be honest with them, pray for them, help with limits, and leave the rest to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. I can show you the path to walk on and help you over the rocks, but even God doesn’t force anyone onto His path.
So – give yourself a break. If you can’t do anymore, it’s ok. Someone else can. We are not called to be everything to everyone. When the skunk sprays, we are supposed to learn from that! Loving one another as God loves you includes discipline and hard choices. Love them enough to let that happen. Remember the skunk – you stink and he is unaffected.