! Warning: This post contains positive topics relating to hope and optimism!
But seriously, we are gonna talk about ways to never give up hope for people you love. I don’t think I’m the only person who knows people who are doing self-harming things or just don’t want God in their lives or any number of other things. It would be great to see them succeed, or be happy, or stop taking drugs, but somehow they just…. don’t. I can see how much it hurts them, but they won’t listen to me. So sometimes, I want to give up.
I think there are a lot of people out there who have similar situations. There are probably people who are better qualified than I am to talk about something like this. I’ve just noticed that there are things you can do so that you don’t give up. Remember, “hope is the last thing to die” (François de La Rochefoucauld).
You Are Not The Savior
I was having a discussion with a friend, and she told me, very frankly, that it’s not my job to “fix” people. I’m the kind of person who does try to “fix” people, and she said, “sometimes you just don’t know what people need.” I’ve come to agree with her.
This is to mean that, yeah, we might have a general idea of what is good for them (i.e. eat veggies, good sleep schedule, get eternal life, etc.) but we don’t know the specifics. The Lord said, “so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9). The Lord has a specific plan for their recovery, repentance, growth, or whatever else it is they (and we) need. Let’s not be pretentious and think we can orchestrate it.
In this sometimes I think we make helping them more about us. We feel so good about what we do that we try to do more and more. Maybe in our attempts to emulate the Savior, we might forget that we aren’t Him. He has a fundamentally different job than we do. There is One Savior. He’ll fix them, us, and everyone else.
We also are incredibly selfish when we “listen” to people. This is a generalization, but one that might be more realistic than we’d like to admit to ourselves. Us guys are especially bad. We tend to ask questions that are easy for us to direct back at ourselves. Here’s an example:
Chuck: “Hey Lucy, do you like to go boating?”
Lucy: “Yes I do Chuck. It’s very relaxing. I used to go boating with my father. We haven’t been since he’s passed away.”
Chuck: ” I’m so sorry Lucy. I love boating too. My family and I go all the time. I’m really good at wake boarding.”
It’s another generalization, but it does happen. I’ve seen roles reverse as well. In “helping” people, we aren’t giving them their “emotional oxygen” as Dale Carnegie, writer of “How to Win Friends and Influence People” puts it if we aren’t actually listening. Sometimes people just want to be heard.
Even Elder Holland tells us that “If we listen with love, we won’t need to wonder what to say. It will be given to us—by the Spirit and by our friends” (Preach My Gospel). When we listen, we’ll know how to help them. Usually, that will just mean loving them and listening to them. Doing this will increase hope and love. I’ve experienced this.
I was recently speaking with a friend who is struggling with a drug addiction. She was wondering who to tell, whether or not to tell the Bishop, and how to handle her detox. My friend was very worried. She also mentioned the struggle she was having with her faith. I just listened and asked questions.
At a certain point, she mentioned that she had just had a blessing earlier that day. I felt the impression to ask what the blessing said. This doesn’t happen often to me, so I asked the question. My friend relayed to me that the blessing had told her what to do. This friend had already been given the advice she needed. My job was only to listen and ask questions. Our roles are much more secondary than we think.
Invite With Hope
While we aren’t meant to “fix” them, we are meant to invite them. In Preach My Gospel, we are told we are to “invite others to come unto Christ.” Like everything else God does, this is ingenious. Invites aren’t forceful. They aren’t menacing, or coercive. They let the invitee take full reign of their personal agency and responsibility. It also gives the invitee an option they may take or reject.
To be frank, you should expect rejections. Keep your hope, but don’t be surprised when they say, “oh no thanks, I’m busy.” I’ve invited a lot of people to do things that I believe would help them, but rarely am I taken up on my invite. Each has their own reason for saying no. If we constantly invite in a friendly, no-pressure way, they will feel our love and will either accept our invite or feel comfortable enough to tell us why they said no.
I think the most important reason we keep inviting them to do things we hope will help them, is because it is a sign of love. Whenever I got mad at my Dad for hounding to do responsible things he’d always say, “if I didn’t care, I wouldn’t care.” Just like my Dad, we can care by caring what happens to them. Eventually, regardless of whether our advice was good or not, they’ll know we care about them.
There are also people out there who are looking for help. These are the people who are silently praying that someone would invite them to meet with the missionaries, or quit smoking, or start doing something productive. If we don’t invite them, they may lose hope themselves. They may continue struggling. They may never feel our love.
At Arm’s Length
It’s very important that we let those struggling around us have their own space, but we should also try and keep them close. It is a very strange dichotomy. We must give them space, but we must always be with them. This is so that, more than anything else, they feel our love.
“And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18). No one wants to feel alone. We can’t make it through this life alone. People need our help, as we need theirs. Life is a team sport.
We need to do anything we can to stay in the lives of those people who are struggling. They may not want us to be in their lives, and we may need to step back for a while, but jump back in with love as soon as we can. Keeping them close will help us to keep our hope alive. Social media and technology is a wonderful way of doing this. It allows for space while still keeping connected.
The Three C’s
In Addiction Recovery culture, they talk about the three C’s of recovery. These are generally for those who have a spouse or loved one struggling with addiction. I feel they are applicable for anyone who has a loved one who is struggling with anything. They are:
- I didn’t cause it
- I can’t control it
- and I can’t cure it
We’ve already talked about not feeling like we need to cure it, but it’s important to realize that we can’t even control their problems. We shouldn’t even try to. There may, however, be occasions when we may have caused some of their problems, so that principle should be used with prudence.
These three C’s fill me with hope because of the perspective it gives me. It reminds me that I’m not in the driver’s seat. I’m reminded that I can’t control everything. That’s ok. It helps me understand that I’m not the main character in the story of the recovery, growth, success, or happiness of another person’s life. I’m a support character and that’s how it’s supposed to be.
The most important aspect of keeping your own hope alive is love. That is part of Christ’s secret in helping us. He loves so well and so perfectly that He can maintain a correct perspective of what is actually good for us. With this kind of love, Christ knows when to give us relief and when to let us struggle. His eternal love isn’t compromised by his desire to not see us suffer momentary pain.
With this kind of love, we can start doing the same kind of things. We know that things will change at some point. With this love, we won’t give up. We’ll keep inviting, keep praying and keep hoping.
Keep On Keeping On
It’s not easy seeing someone you love struggle and hurt. It’s not easy feeling powerless and wanting to help them. You will have to endure, but with these principles, you won’t do so without hope.
Keep on keeping on. Don’t give up on the people you love. Things will change for the better eventually. God takes care of His people.