By Suzanne Harrill
Many of us give of our resources to good causes
because we value helping people less fortunate than ourselves. When we give
financial donations to organizations it removes us from the emotional aspect,
because we never meet the individuals face to face benefiting from our gifts.
When we volunteer through an organization there is a boundary of time and place
where we assist another, working under the umbrella of the organization's system
with rules in place. When we give to people we know it gets a little more
complicated. It can tug at us emotionally when we have different expectations
than the person we are helping has for themselves. For example, you learn that
money given to a relative to pay rent was used for something else. You then
watch them being evicted. When disappointed with the results of giving to
someone we know, there are usually opportunities for our own growth. We can
learn such things as the difference between our good intentions and giving
unwisely beyond what is needed for the other person's growth. As we work though
our own issues involved with giving to someone we know, such as feeling taken
advantage of or disappointed in their level of self-responsibility, we can learn
to take the high road of practicing compassion, unconditional love, and
unconditional forgiveness. This is the antidote to getting pulled down to a
lower level of thinking and behaving with criticizing, blaming, shaming, and
Have you ever thought you were helping someone in
your extended family by giving your time, your guidance, or your money and
learned later that you were duped? It is hard to get through life without this
experience when you have a big heart and like to help others in need. When
living a full life, it is a good thing to give from your overflow to help those
struggling. When there is a match of
giving and receiving it feels good to see someone get back on their feet with
your boost. There is a risk, however. With some people our money or emotional
support enables unwise behavior in them, delaying the feedback of difficult
consequences that we helped them avoid. If another, for example, does not take
responsibility for their choices, stays a victim blaming situations or people
for their misfortune, and acts entitled to your help, it is difficult to help
them grow and take responsibility for their lives with your giving.
Sometimes disappointment with another's actions
happens when no money or time is invested. I have experienced shock when a
distant family member that seemed trustworthy did something unconscionable and
their offensive behavior has serious long-term consequences for themselves and
others. I have also gotten caught taking it personally when another hurts or
takes advantage of someone I love. I share this to let you know I realize how
difficult it is to take the high road and how important it is to work on
ourselves to change unwanted responses.
What is the first thing we do when we learn another
has made unwise choices and is not willing to see their part in a bad situation?
It is common to criticize and judge the unwise, immature, or aggressive behavior
in the other person. When we do this however, we match their level of awareness
and pull ourselves down to their level of operating. We lose our inner peace and
kind heart. How might we take a higher road, one where compassion, unconditional
love, and unconditional forgiveness reign?
Before I go further, compassion, unconditional
love, and forgiveness are not about advising any behavior or actions on your
part. Instead, they are part of your inner consciousness, your intentions,
thoughts and feelings. You do not have to like or condone behavior, attitudes,
or level of functioning of another to be compassionate and practice
unconditional acceptance. You do not need to be around them or continue an
active relationship with them.
Now let's return to my question. How do we take a
higher road, one where compassion, unconditional love, and unconditional
forgiveness reign? How do we move out of our first responses of criticizing and
judging the person for their unwise actions and responses? Before you can
consider the higher road, you need to feel your feelings, anger, fear, shame,
sadness, etc. If you have been physically harmed, you need safety and strong
boundaries to stay safe. If you have been betrayed, you may need to grieve.
Professional help is strongly advised if you feel unable to do this on your own.
To help us take the higher road, it is helpful to
see how another could have such poor judgment and make poor choices. The oldest
cause is a troubled childhood that sets up beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors
patterned after dysfunctional parents. When we observe we may see a conflict in
the person's needs and values and how each chose to get them met. Understanding
how another could be immature and make such poor choices helps us build
compassion for their unaware choices.
Loving is a choice. This is not the emotional love
but impersonal unconditional acceptance without strings attached. At the highest
level you can decide to love all of humanity, even those with severe problems
because you have compassion for them. When you forgive another, it is really
about you, as it frees you from being in charge of value judging anyone. As you
focus on your own lessons you realize you are not perfect either, and therefore
do not need to send critical, hurtful thoughts to anyone.
It is usually a process to take the high road,
beginning with honestly experiencing our feelings and emotions of anger,
sadness, disappointment, shame, hurt and grief. As we feel our feelings we can
move beyond staying stuck here. We have the right to set boundaries with people
who hurt or disappoint us. We can choose to stop giving to someone and not have
an active relationship with them. We have the right to say no to them.
The higher road is not an easy process. It may go
against everything you believe. If so, simply consider what I am saying and
ponder the ideas; over time you may find this path will serve you as well as
others. By choosing to practice compassion you let go of the need to judge
another. You can understand how another got to be a person with a character
disorder. At the same time, you can remove yourself from the role of thinking
you should continue to help them.
Tough love, in other words, is needed when another has no intention of changing
themselves, admitting their faults and problems, or taking responsibility for
A new script is needed by you when they return to
play the old script where you enabled them to stay unhealthy. Such things as
your sense of duty, obligation, guilt, or history together has kept you
tolerating their bad behavior and helping them for so long. If you play your
part differently you can change the impact of this relationship on you. A new
script might be to find your voice and communicate with few words, being able to
say no, or even not responding. Part of the new script is to set new boundaries
with the toxic person, who may be an aggressive perpetrator, a bully, a
compulsive liar, or a manipulator. As your awareness grows you find it is
perfectly okay to remove yourself from much or any contact depending on the
degree of dysfunction they manifest. Most of us need support from others when
making changes in dysfunctional scripts.
I invite you to take the higher road the next time
another's actions and choices let you down. Let us be the leaders moving beyond
value judging anyone. Let us be role models in practicing compassion,
unconditional love and acceptance, and unconditional forgiveness.