Perhaps the most exasperating thing about The Mister is his habit of lining his shoes up under his dresser. Neatly arranged with the toes tucked up under the ledge of his dresser, they sit mocking me every time I pass them. Oh, I have asked him to put them in the closet. I have bought him a basket next to his dresser for them. I have yelled and I may or may not have thrown one or two of them. Still they remain there, day after day……
I leave lights on, all over the house. When you come up the drive at night it resembles an airplane landing strip so says The Mister, who finds this habit a waste of perfectly good electricity. And yet somehow we have come to this sort of truce in which I step over shoes and he turns out lights. We found a way to co exist in the faults of the other.
Sometimes we find ourselves staring into the face of issues that are much bigger than wayward shoes or light switches. Sometimes we find a resistance to change heartbreaking, or home breaking. Sometimes late at night in bed, in the dark we cry hot tears asking God to please, please change this person. We wake to find that nothing is changed in fact, the rut seems deeper, the habit firmer.
What do you do when someone you love, will not or maybe cannot change? Anyone can learn to step over shoes, but sometimes the hurt is unbearable while we wait for change. Sometimes we can become so angered at others stubborn refusal to change that we feel as though we cannot continue. It’s too much. Sometimes we can even begin to feel the stirrings of bitterness as it seeps into the crevices of our hearts from the attitudes in others.
You cannot change anyone. You can take the horse to water but you cannot make them drink. Honest heart felt confrontations are only worth as much as the receiver wants. The first step in freedom is realizing that no matter how damaging the behavior is of the one you love, you my friend cannot change them. You may be able to shame, or manipulate, plead or beg, but true change only comes when they are sick and tired of themselves. Owning this releases you from the responsibility of effecting change.
Are you tired of seeing your son smoke crack? He won’t stop, not even if you cry or beg. He will only stop when he is sick and tired of it. Save the lectures.
Tired of your husband watching porn and cheating on you? He won’t stop until he is sick and tired of it. His addiction will draw him back every time. He will make you promises but until he hates himself he won’t stop.
Tired of negativity in people? The endless complaining, the griping? Your confrontation may stun them, but only momentarily. They will default to their bleak outlook until they are sick and tired of it.
Stop owning other’s folly. It is a common reaction, especially for mothers to own the actions of others. But really? It may be time for you to take a long hard look at the situation and quit feeling embarrassed by their actions. The second step in freedom is realizing that this person’s actions do not define you…..even if it is your own child. Let them be them and you be you. You may be enabling their actions but you don’t own that action. Let them carry it. Let them carry the consequences as well. Because rescuing, bailing out and listening to a litany of negativity is not love, or understanding.
Don’t be God. My dear friend Rita once told me, ” When you rescue your child, you interrupt God’s work in their lives.” To this day, I have that memorized and its so true in all our relationships, especially those that are muddled with conflicts, bad behavior, frustrations. Don’t be God. You make a lousy Savior. Jesus doesn’t need your help changing lives.
Set limits. Are you sick of their behavior? Stop exposing yourself to their folly. Sometimes it is unavoidable but when it is in your power don’t put up with folly. If you have to walk away midsentence. If you have to throw the computer out in the yard. If you have to call the cops on your own kid. Don’t nag. Don’t ask if you don’t want to know. Protect yourself from their destruction.
Never, never, never give up. What if you are the only one who really cares? What if you are holding the rope? God may move you out of their life but don’t stop loving them. Let your life be defined as someone who loves and pursues wisdom, and loves without reservation. And pray. Pray that God brings them to end of themselves. That He makes them sick and tired.