“No Son, I don’t have the money,” my younger self often said.
“Just use that credit card,” more often than not the reply rolled so easily off my children’s tongues. They had very little understanding of how money works and that that card linked to actual money in my account, that we actually could run all the way out of money.
Card companies allow us to set alerts to warn us when we’re approaching our spending limits. We have overdraft protection on our bank accounts, and all sorts of safeguards to protect our financial capital, but I wonder how much thought we give to our emotional spending limits. We get involved with people because we want to make a difference in their lives, but they can sometimes forget that our emotional capital also has a limit, that we can spend all the way down and have nothing left to give.
Just as our financial accounts need time to recover from huge purchases, and we need wisdom in spending that capital, our emotional accounts can bankrupt if we’re not careful. The Sabbath rest principle applies to more than just our physical bodies. We invest unwisely when we continue to throw efforts behind people who do not value our input or, more importantly, make no effort for themselves. We must give ourselves emotional rest.
I’ve developed a few rules for myself about helping others, and I wonder if my readers might also find them helpful:
- I must have the emotional capital to spend. I ask myself first if I’ve already overspent and am burnt out. Am I capable of thinking clearly enough as I guide someone else to give wise advice, or am I so burdened myself that I cannot think clearly enough to encourage a positive outcome? Is it possible I could actually do more harm than good because I have nothing of value left to give?
- I must be qualified to help. Some matters are simply above my pay grade. I am not a therapist or psychologist. I need to know when the person I seek to help has legitimate mental health issues that I should refer to qualified professionals.
- I must not be manipulated. This approach may seem selfish, but when I allow a taker to take more and more from me, I enable them and actually encourage them to continue deceptive behaviors. I reinforce those negative behaviors by not confronting manipulation.
- The recipient of my investment must also invest. I don’t know why I kept doing it for so many years, but I tended to rescue people who said they wanted to be rescued, but in reality did not. They were happy to dump their complaints on me, but they lacked the courage to implement change in their own lives. Asking myself if I want the change for them more than they want it for themselves provides a little wake up call for me to back off.
- Give them a chance to see their need for independence from me. I can develop a God complex, where I think I can fix everyone, and they all need me. This sort of thinking makes matters worse and may reveal some issues of my own.
In recent years, I had a young lady enter my life who needed some help sorting through her emotions, and she was beginning to break some of my rules. She didn’t mean to, but she was young and inexperienced. Through a painful series of events, we had to break ties for a while, but quite awhile later, she came back to me and said, “I get it. I understand what you meant when you said I was bankrupting you emotionally.” She is a much healthier person today because I got out of the way, and so am I.
…and that’s the view from My Front Porch.