We often see things in others they don't see in themselves--both positive and negative. It's often easy to nurture and encourage the positive. Depending on the relationship (for example, with a child, spouse, friend, mentee, employee), we may also attempt to help them address the negative--i.e., things that are hurtful and detrimental to them and/or others--by offering advice, guidance, support, and encouragement. But, as difficult as it may be to believe or accept, some people don't want our help. And sometimes they don't realize they need help. Other times, they're not ready for help. And, quite frankly, sometimes we want more for others than they want for themselves. So when we don't see positive results or a change in their actions, attitudes, or situation as a result of our "help", we may become tired, frustrated and/or discouraged. Have you ever given up when you feel you've done all you can, and your time would be better spent trying to help folks who are trying to help themselves? I've certainly been there. But I also know/remember that there were times in my life when people tried to help me. They tried to plant seeds of faith, love, hope, support, and encouragement, among other things, in my life. But I couldn't see it, hear it, believe it, or receive it. Sometimes, it was because I chose not to. Sometimes, it was because the advice came from someone with whom I had baggage. But, most importantly, I wasn't ready. I needed more life experience(s). Unfortunately, I needed to learn some things the hard way. I had to be pruned before I was ready/able to understand both the help I needed and the help that was being offered. The seeds that had been planted had to be nurtured; the soil had to be prepared--I had to get rid of some weeds in my life. But when I was ready--which in some cases took years--those seeds grew and I was able to reflect upon, and appreciate, those who planted them--even though they were not always around to witness the growth.What my own experiences taught me is that we may not always see the fruits of our labor when trying to help others. And even if we do, it may take longer than we expect. People are not always interested or ready when we want them/need them to be. Sometimes, we might have to be patient, get a little distance from the situation, let go, or move on. It may be that our role is to just plant the seeds. If it's meant to be, in due season, they will grow.
Let me tell you about Mr. B. I met him while walking down the street. We made eye contact, said hello, and I asked how he was doing. His response was, "doing just fine, especially because the nice weather makes it easier for me to be on the streets. Even when the weather is bad, much like life, it's all in how you cope." We spent the next @45 minutes laughing and talking about current events, politics, life in general, the plight of our youth, etc.
Mr. B is college educated and homeless. He shared that he ended up on the streets because he's bipolar. And that although his life isn't easy, he's blessed. The entire time we spoke, I was looking for an opportunity to encourage him. But he was so full of light that his conversation encouraged me. As we ended our talk and I turned to leave, Mr. B said, "I'm usually here. If there's anything I can do for you, to help you, please come see me." This man, who ostensibly has so little, offered to help me. My heart was, and remains, so full.
Have you ever written a check you know you should not have written? I mean figuratively, not literally (that's a conversation for another day). I'm talking about taking on too much. Being afraid, not wanting, or not knowing how, to say no. Giving so much of yourself that there's nothing--or very little-- left for you or anyone else. It's very important that we recognize if/when this is an issue for us. Because when we're depleted, we jeopardize our health, our quality of life, and our joy.
We should be cheerful givers, which is difficult when we're overextended. When folks know we're willing and able to give, they ask us to give. Why shouldn't they? But rather than recognizing the importance of "spreading the joy", some come back to us time after time asking for more. We wonder why we need to say "enough" or "not this time". Don't they know they're always at our door? Sometimes they do, but ask nevertheless because "nobody can ________ (fill in the blank) like you do." Heard that before? But sometimes, people don't realize they're always at our door. So we must tell them, and/or learn to garner the strength to pass on a particular "opportunity". This in turn may provide "opportunities" for others. It may provide opportunities for growth and independence; opportunities for appreciation. Because even if giving is in our heart, is our gift, our purpose, or our passion, we must make room for deposits--that is, take time to replenish. Otherwise, we'll find that our account is overdrawn.
What is the predominant language of your life? Hopefully, it's a language of hope, faith, gratitude, and possibility. For some of us, our predominant language is of lack, limitation, and negativity. For example, we speak in terms of what we don't have; what's wrong in our lives; what we can't do; how good things never or rarely happen to us, etc. And then when something doesn't work out for us, we see it as confirmation of our language/way of thinking. Such language/thinking can discourage us and others with whom we come into contact. We all suffer disappointments and setbacks from time to time, but when we consistently use the language of lack and limitation, we underestimate ourselves and God. When we speak the language of lack and limitation, we risk living a life of lack and limitation. We often draw to ourselves what we think/believe. It may be time to "learn" a different language so our words reflect our desires. I say "learn" because the more deeply entrenched we are in our words, habits, and patterns of behavior, the more difficult it is to change them. When we find ourselves complaining about what we don't have and what's wrong in our lives, why not express gratitude for what we do have and what's right in our lives. When we feel inclined to talk about what we can't do, why not discuss what we can do. And then do it. When we find ourselves saying that good things never or rarely happen to us, why not look back to where we've been and what we've overcome and own that goodness. A change of language may create opportunities, encourage faith, and inspire ourselves and others. If we say we desire something, our words and actions should reflect that desire. And while changing our language is not a guarantee that things will go exactly as we hope or plan, it can certainly place us on a better path. Who knows, we may just end up accomplishing goals and living our dream(s). Those are possibilities that make it worth examining the language of our lives.