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Allowing the Journey–What Loving Support Really Looks Like

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One of my beliefs is that we all have lessons to learn in our own time. We all need to learn how to set boundaries, speak our needs, get out of bad relationships and move beyond the drama. But sometimes these lessons are brutal.  Not to mention that don’t all learn them on the same timetable or even all at one time.

Is your friend in a crappy relationship?
Is your spouse stuck in a dead end job?
Is your co-worker bad at drawing boundaries with her mom so she bitches all the time?

Annoying.
Frustrating.

It can be down right hair-pulling out annoying when we ‘know’ what is best for someone. When we are ‘ahead on the journey’ and we want to pull them along and show them a better way. Our hearts are in a good place.  We just want to help.  But are we really helping? Or are we trying to move someone along before they are ready.  Being able to lovingly sit with someone as they learn how to walk their path, to be ‘good company with someone as the follow their own path of fresh discoveries’ that is truly the test.

The temptation to help is so large.  We think we can see the correct answer, we think we can fix it and make it all better.  But what if our fix isn’t right for their journey?  What if really helping someone is allowing them to fall and scuff up their figurative knee and rather than saying “I told you so” we lovingly offer a hug and a bandage. Rather than always knowing what’s best what if we practice staying in our own car and compassionately allowing others to have their journey.

I know for me, when I think back to the unhealthy relationships or ‘going no where’ jobs that I had it is the friends who were compassionate and empathetic who truly helped me.  The friends who knew the answer, repeatedly told me I was an idiot for sticking it out or that I should just move on, I stopped talking to those friends.  I didn’t change my behavior, I didn’t move any faster in dropping the deadweight, rather I just kept part of my life hidden from those friends who couldn’t handle my journey.

As Robert Kegan asks:

 “Are we willing to support people’s move to places we ourselves have already been?  Are we able to be good company on the path to fresh discoveries no longer fresh to us?”

I would love to hear from you in the comments:  Do you agree?  How has this scenario played out in your life?

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One Response to Allowing the Journey–What Loving Support Really Looks Like

  1. I am guilty of offering unsolicited advice or help sometimes. I have tried to learn the habit of asking myself “did she ask for my help?” before I start “helping.” There’s also a difference between talking about my own experience and telling someone what they should do about their situation. So maybe instead of telling an unexpectedly single friend what to do, I can just offer to spend time with her. Then if she brings up the break up, I can talk about a similar experience and what I did or wish I did differently or whatever… But it’s still just me talking about me, and she can take what she wants from it.

    Another thing I struggle with is remembering that it’s OKAY if I am not able to support someone. Just because I had a similar experience doesn’t automatically make it my job to help someone with theirs. There are times when my similar experience doesn’t make me the best support person because it’s too painful or frustrating to relive that journey. That’s ok too!