14 February 2010

Determining the Fine Line Between Helping and Hindering from others

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What can I do, what more can I do?!?!?!" As Jan's frustrated voice broke into deep sobs, I just prayed quietly. She sobbed into the other end of the phone. I was hoping that she would realize for herself what I had been telling her for months--she needed to let go and let her daughter be responsible for her own choices. Her helping had somehow turned into hindering a few months back. I had hoped that she would find peace on the other side of those tears. For a long time she had been bailing her daughter out of one mess after another, hoping her daughter would "'see the light" and be thankful to God and to her mom. Now her daughter needed several hundred dollars to get her car out of the impoundment yard.

Jan knew that she could not help Dawn this time for two reasons. One was she couldn't come up with such a large amount of money. The second reason was that despite all her warnings about drinking and driving, this was the reason her car was now impounded. But what really hurt Jan was that the manipulation that had always been there was now finally very clear to her. First was guilt. "If you don't help me, I will probably lose my job because I can't get to work". Then when that didn't work she turned on her mother in anger saying "you have never been there for me!"

As I sat back and listened to this drama unfold, it was clear to me what Jan needed to do. Of course, when I am personally required to make decisions like this, it is often difficult to see clearly.

So what are the answers and how can we tell if we are helping or hindering our loved ones? First, let's look at the reasons why we could sometimes be hurting others in our desire to help.
              The Need For A Savior

God has created all of us with a need for a savior. The basic job of a savior is to save, to rescue. If a loved one is willing to play that role then we will have no need of Jesus. Most of us became pretty disgusted with our life before we turned to the Lord for help. We first had to see that we were making a mess out of things before seeing our need for God. I don't know any Christian friend or family member of a homosexual who isn't praying for their loved one to turn to Jesus. I pray for my son something like this: "Lord, do whatever it takes to save Tony", "Father make him see his need for you". Then when he is hurting or "uncomfortable" I run to the rescue and try to "make him happy". I get in the way of what God is trying to do. With a great mom like that, why would Tony need a savior? When I pray "make him need you" and then rescue him, I am sabotaging my own prayers!
              How Do We Know When We Are Hindering?

Honesty with self. What is your motive for helping? Often my motive is fear. Fear of losing my relationship with my son. Others might see that they really like being needed by their loved one, even looking for ways to keep their child dependent on them. These are just two of many wrong motives.

Take a close look at why they need your help. Sometimes, as in the case of Jan and her daughter Dawn, it is clearly reckless behavior and wrong choices that have led to trouble. You may have encouraged their dependence by regularly giving them money just before they receive their pay check. They have come to count on this and expect it as something you owe them. If we will take a closer look at why they need our help we can better decide if God wants us to help them.

Are you trying to keep it a secret? Do you sneak money to your loved one? If you are hiding what you are doing maybe you need to ask yourself why. This can really add an unhealthy specialness to your relationship.

Have you been in competition with another for the prime position as helper? In your mind does dependence equate with love and affection? We often see this in the male struggler who is close to a female friend or his mother. This woman takes an exalted role as counselor, confessor, protector, and nurturer. The struggler will often say things like "you're the only one who understands me". This is a stagnant place for a male struggler to be. He needs healing that only same sex relationships can give him as he moves on in his change process.
              How Can We Be Sure We Are Helping?

Prayer and accountability are of first importance. We may be the last to know that our relationship is unhealthy and far too close. Through prayer I can sometimes see when it's not a good idea to help Tony. Because my son is in a state of poor health that has led to many medical emergencies, it becomes more difficult to stand back and see the situation objectively. I need someone that I can trust to be accountable to. My husband, Frank is a life-saver for me. We have the kind of relationship where I can ask him anything. I really value his input.

Listen to your thoughts and how you may be rationalizing the situation. Are you being defensive? Are you becoming protective?

When possible, don't rush into anything. Usually there is time to think, pray and talk it over before you have to respond. If your loved one has just called you and asked for something you're not sure of, ask if you can call them back. You can think better without the pressure of them waiting on the phone.

Prayer! I pray for God to help me be willing to let Tony go through emotional pain. I pray that I will want God to be more important to him than me. I ask God to stop me from getting in the way of what He is doing in Tony's life. I pray "Lord help me to not want just what feels good for now but what is best for Tony."

There are times when we can and should help our loved ones. If it is an emergency, then naturally you should run to their aid. It is those non-emergency situations that are so difficult to judge. We must be so careful that our help isn't promoting the very thing we have been so diligently praying against. If we have the slightest suspicion that our finances are being used to purchase drugs, pornography, drinks in gay bars, or sustaining someone who refuses to work then we are not helping but hindering. Sadly, many of today's street people were young men and women who mistakenly believed that someone else would always care for them. But they discovered that their source of provision was not unending, and became subject to the twists and turns that life takes. Someone who loved them thought they were doing the right thing in supporting them, but their support could not last forever. Let us always be concerned for the long-term rather than the short-term and remember to ask: "What is best for their eternal salvation?"
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