Watching someone die is very difficult. If you have been through the process with a loved one you know exactly what I mean by that statement because you, yourself, have walked through that valley of the shadow of death with someone you love. As the onlooker, all you can do is try and bring comfort to the process, but rarely can you empower the dying individual in ways they do not desire to be empowered. Rarely can you change the ravages of what the disease is doing to the person. Walking with the dying is a powerless place to be and yet we, as the helpers, try to do all sorts of things to try make ourselves feel more powerful and less powerless. This same journey with the the dying can be replicated a thousand times in our daily life with those with whom we have relationships. Be it parent, child, spouse, friend, coworker or stranger there are people all around us dying emotionally in one way or another through various means and we try very hard to not feel that emotional pain with them. Be it the friend who cycles through one bad relationship after another, the teen that makes impulsive choices, the spouse who numbs themselves through isolation, the family member who fails to take responsibility for their actions, or the coworker who always blames others for their mistakes, we feel their pain with them because their choices make us feel powerless. So how does one not feel powerless when most of us were taught to give care to others? People generally do one of two things: they create strong emotional boundaries to prevent themselves from feeling vulnerable, or they do a lot of self-medicating. Neither option promotes good mental health because rock solid boundaries prevents good from penetrating the hard exterior and self-medicating in excess usually brings forth some sort of self-sabotage to your own personal goals. Being around other people’s pain and feeling powerless will affect us, but you have the choice of how much you allow it to affect you. Medicate in measure and use boundaries in measure. I am sure you have heard the phrase, “not my circus, not my monkeys”, but how does that apply to how you interact with those you love? The following are five questions to ask yourself when faced with the pain of others:
1. Does this situation require me to be involved?
2. If I am required to be involved, what are the boundaries I need to establish so I take care of myself?
3. If the situation doesn’t really involve me, what is my motivation for getting involved?
4. What are the costs to me and my family and friends if I do get involved? Emotionally/ Financially/ Socially/ Physically, etc.
5. What are the costs to me if I do become involved?
Life is not about just caring for the masses, but caring for yourself and your own purpose. Jesus himself many times left the care of others in other people’s hands as he went off to care for self. When it doubt, prayer and meditation often helps to determine what your place is in the situation but in the end, you will be the one who determines what power you give away in the process of walking with others through pain.