There is a saying I’ve heard very often over the years, “If people knew better, they would do better.” The logic being when people do things that are selfish or vindictive or harmful, it’s because they really don’t know any better. Something about that didn’t work for me – then I made one small change – “If people wanted better, they would do better.”
You have to want better and the dirty truth is that some people don’t. They are satisfied where they are. It might not seem like a place where you want to be but it’s where they want to be. Even if they don’t seem happy, they don’t have any desire to put in the work to better. In other words, they don’t want it.
After I got out of college, I had a friend, who was dating a guy who I thought was all wrong for her. They had vicious and sometimes violent arguments. On more than a couple occasions, I received the late night crying call or had to go pick her up after he’d put her out. I pleaded with her to leave. It was toxic.
Then one day we went out to dinner and she said something that changed everything for me. I had started dating someone and I mentioned how nice it was to date someone and be on the same page without a lot of drama or arguing or suspicion. It was nice. She told me that what I had sounded boring to her.
I realized then that what I wanted for her was not what she wanted for herself. No amount of pleading or prayer was going to get her to change. She ended up having a child with this man and I think they are still together to this day.
We all have friends and family in desperate situations. They are hooked on drugs or alcohol, they linger in toxic relationships, or engage in chronic and detrimental spending, or it could be a host of other dramatic circumstances. We have to take an honest assessment and ask the hard question, “Do they want something better?”
The hard answer might be “No.”
If the answer is no, then we have to stop fighting their battles and allow them to live their lives in the way that they see fit – even if we know they are capable of better, even if we can see another way for them, even if we want it for them more than we want it for ourselves.
You can’t throw a life preserver to someone intent on drowning.