"Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them to become what they are capable of being." - Johann Wolfgang Goethe
Johann Wolfgang Goethe - Pretty much the face I was making while writing this post
A friend on Facebook posted this quote today and when I read it I felt like someone was pointing right at my face and saying, "Read this, do this." It was a happy coincidence/synchronicity/God, whatever you believe, it was exactly what I needed to read right at that moment. Though I'm really not sure how you actually live that quote on a daily basis.
I love great quotes. I've always been the kind of nerd to collect them and write them in blank books that I want to journal in, for about three days, before I lose interest. (Blog title straight from pilfered quote) Either way, I love a good quote and today someone was aiming this one right at me.
I've been struggling with some family issues that aren't new, but seem to have amplified and hastened my involvement over the summer and in the last few weeks. These are issues of addiction, mental and physical health, and self sufficiency. Issues involving some family members whom I dearly love and enjoy being around, but sadly don't understand about 80% of the time. And more than anything I struggle with maintaining some sense of emotional separation or distance from these loved ones. When they hurt me or themselves I want to talk about it with them, analyze their behavior, discuss better ways they could deal with their problems, basically give what I think is pretty solid advice. But that's not what they want from me. They don't want a lecture. They just want someone to listen to them. And I don't blame them. But as the cousin, sister, daughter, whatever, I just want to help them figure out how to fix it, take action, do something.
My tendency to be a bit blunt and straightforward ends up hurting them. And frankly maybe they need to be hurt sometimes. I'm not socking anyone in the nose, but maybe having someone tell you the truth is painful, especially when you don't want to hear it. I know it has been for me in the past. But I can't help but feel that if only they could hear what I'm saying, do something different, their lives might be easier and brighter. I've been told that my expectations of other people are too high, I don't understand what they are going through, and no one has a perfect life. And all of these things are probably true. More importantly even if my opinion and advice is right, I can't do anything to change people. I need to type that again so I hear myself, I can't do anything to change people. They can only do it for themselves.
I have my own struggles, my life's not perfect, my choices aren't always stellar. And this is one of those struggles, and I'm guessing some of my readers' struggle as well. How to be a loving friend, daughter, sister, cousin of someone with an addiction or mental illness and not be enabling, not holding your tongue when something needs to be said, but also not being the boring, preachy, holier than thou lecturer. I don't know how to do this yet. I'm trying though, really I am.