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Helping People Who Don’t Want Help

by Derek Sisterhen on October 22, 2010

I had a concerned father call me recently saying that his daughter and son-in-law were on a collision course with financial disaster. They’re young, newly married, and wasting money all over the place.

They’re late on some of their bills and they just borrowed a bunch of money to pay back – you guessed it – previous debts. (When is it that we learn we can’t borrow our way out of debt?)

“What can I do to help them?” the father asked, the sound of distress growing in his voice.

We all know people who need help, don’t we? We hurt for them when we see their destructive behavior robbing them of time, money, solid relationships; robbing them of life.

I told this father that he might have to let his daughter and her young groom fall on their faces a few times. That’s tough stuff – especially in today’s culture where helicopter parenting has become an accepted style of child rearing.

In his book QBQ: The Question Behind The Question, John Miller says, “Change only comes from the inside, as a result of decisions made by the individual.”

We can’t force someone to change any more than we can force the proverbial horse to drink after we did all that work leading him to water. Sometimes the horse has to stand there and feel his tongue parching in the heat, his head going dizzy with dehydration.

So, it’s possible that the best help is to simply love on those who need it. Encouraging them when the timing is right and backing off when it isn’t. Those people might struggle, stumble, trip, fall, pick themselves back up only to fall again, and you’ll have to watch this in a loving way.

But the moment will come; the moment when they’ve had enough. And that’s when you show the way. Ironically, if you do this right – provide love and encouragement without encroaching and preaching – they will turn to you for guidance in that moment of conviction.

That’s a powerful and humbling place to be. It starts with loving them enough to let them fail.

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