My hip is hurting this morning after tripping over a box in the hall last night. My house seems to be riddled with booby traps these days since my son moved back home.
While going through a nasty divorce, he was laid off from work, his apartment lease ran out, and his dog (his child!) went missing. Physically drained, financially shaky, and emotionally bankrupt, he moved home to heal and to get a new start. After setting some ground rules, I encouraged him with his grandmother’s favorite saying, “Keep your chin up, honey, for this, too, shall pass.”
Whether it’s a son, a friend, or a coworker, sometimes the problems of others spill over into your own life. How do you deal with it? As a servant of Christ, how do you help troubled people remain functional and productive? How do you help without taking the burdens upon yourself?
Consider these four suggestions for handling this ticklish task:
Determine the extent of your help. Whether it’s giving them space, getting a group to provide assistance, or referring them to counseling, be careful to help and not to hinder. Too little help can create more problems; too much help can actually prevent them from coping. The trick is to find the balance and that requires planning.
Specify the lifetime of the arrangement. For example, set a time limit on how long you should provide assistance. Deadlines may not work in all settings; however, setting some guidelines helps keep the person’s focus on finding solutions.
Spell out expectations. In other words, discuss your plan of action with this person. Be specific on what you expect of him or her, what you are willing to do, and how others will be allowed to help.
Communicate diligently. Talk regularly about their progress. Focus on whether or not the help you’re providing is achieving its purpose. Make adjustments as necessary.
Sometimes we have to make adjustments in order to help others get through rough times. The key is doing enough to resolve the problems without doing too much and prolonging them.
As for my son, he’s gotten a job, is registered for school, and is smiling again. My prodigal has come home and the fatted calf is on the grill. So what if my grocery bill has doubled? So what if my dining room has been converted into a bedroom? So what if the corner hutch that used to house my antique crystal is now home to his boxers, tees, and socks? He’s worth it. Besides…this, too, shall pass.
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair, persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed…For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. (2 Corinthians 4:8, 17)