When is enough truly enough, when it comes to agreeing to help others? Douglas sometimes calls me Rose, because he says that I metaphorically wear rose-colored glasses in my belief that there is good in every person and, subsequently, in my constant tendency to rescue others. I will admit that I have a difficult time refusing requests for help, especially where children are in the mix.
I am better today about saying No than I was in the past, particularly when the person asking was one of my children. But, encounters with a beloved child taught me the ambiguous nature of helping others. It can be a good thing, as you change the fortunes of another person for the better. Yet, helping others has a bad side, for continuously lending money to the same person, without any remote chance of getting repaid as promised, can lead to a dependence that is harmful to the receiving party.
Once, one of my children called me one day to tell me that their family was being evicted because they had not paid the rent for three months. They needed $1600 to pay the rent and the landlord’s costs, and they would give me the money back when they got paid. I gave them the money, and all was well, except I did not get repaid.
Then, over the next six months, they made two more of the same requests and the same promises, without paying back the money. Finally after the third request, I asked, “How much is your rent?” The rent was $500 a month. I said, “So, I am the only person paying your rent?”When I asked why they were not paying the rent, my child gave me some extempore answer right off the top of his head, I am sure.
The response was that if I did not give them the money that day, they would be evicted, along with my two grandchildren. I cannot stand when people use children to gain sympathy for their cause, especially when they show no consideration for the children when they fail to do what they need to do.
I saw this scenario happening into infinity. It is enticing to keep helping someone you love, but I have found that it isn’t really helping, if you continue to enable bad behavior. It was a hard decision that I knew could end my relationship with this child. But,n on the third request, I said, “No! I won’t do this again! You are on your own!”
Well, the short version is that they were evicted. Also, because they were so certain that I was going to come through again, they did not have a truck ready to move. So, nearly all of their furniture and electronics were stolen by the time they found a truck and someone to move them to a friend’s house.
I felt bad, but when my child tried to place the blame on me for the losses and expected me to replace their things, I simply said that I would not accept responsibility for their bad decisions. That child did not speak to me for years, and although it hurt me, I held my ground.
I thought of this subject today as I talked with one of my granddaughters who has been helping someone and that person has not paid her the money owed. Yet, because this other person has a child, she does not want to refuse to help, but she does not really have the money to keep helping.
I told her that there comes a time when you have to tell people that you cannot help them any more, especially as the other person is not looking for a job to help themselves. Further, I told her that yes, it can be hard when there is a child involved, but the parents of the child are the ones responsible for it. I said to her that when you continue to help people who will not help themselves and who do not consider how their requests may hurt you, only how it helps them, you have to stop rescuing them.
This is not selfishness; it is a way to help the other person. I told her the story I wrote here, and that eventually told me that my refusal to help them that day was the best thing I could have done for them, for they learned valuable lessons. Psalm 119:71 states, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes.” It is the same when it comes to helping others. Sometimes, saying no is the best help you can give to others.