Whether with close friends, relatives or mates, the challenge in relationships is finding the line. Being over-involved and intrusive is never our intent, but we want to be loving and supportive. The problem is that the line separating these two can be difficult to see.
I am constantly amazed by how completely righteous individuals feel in offering not only opinions about others’ life choices, but sometimes in arguing for the “rightness” of their conclusions. It is somewhat understandable that parents believe they have the right to offer their children opinions and direction. At early stages in kids’ lives, that’s exactly what parenting requires, but as “kids” grow into adulthood, parents often continue acting as if they’re behind the steering wheel.
Ever had a friend who was planning a wedding to a mate you greatly disliked and thought actively harmful to your friend? This can be a very difficult situation. How do you stay a supportive friend when you believe the actions being chosen are anything but constructive? We can feel torn between “pulling the fire alarm bell” and stepping back in acknowledgement of the friend’s right to make his or her own mistakes.
When it comes right down to it, the best way to sort all this out is to ask yourself some questions:
1. Is the person you want to straighten out an adult? Close to adulthood?
2. Will the choice you’re concerned about lead directly to harm or death? (No fudging on this. You don’t get a free reign because you think someone may get physical.)
3. Have you been asked to give an opinion?
If you’re concerned about someone who is under-age or very advanced in age (senile), you probably should step in and try to stop whatever you’re concerned about—always staying within the limits of the law. If your friend or relative is an adult, however, tread lightly.
It is a fact of this world that adults get to make their own mistakes. It’s also a reality that by warning the friend or relative of what you fear may happen, you potentially jeopardize your relationship with said person. It may be a “kill the messenger” situation. Try your best to refrain from being an intrusive friend or an over-involved parent. Adults get to make their own choices, even if those have really ugly consequences.
Friends don’t need to intrude into relationships—like trying to out the cheater who is being a dog or confronting someone who isn’t treating your friend right. People in charge should step in to prevent bullying with children, but you as an friend don’t need to protect your friend against his or her own mistakes.
Parents need to refrain from rescuing adult children—from debt, from the law and from foolishness that leads to consequences they need.
What you do need to do is being supportive. Listen. Help when it doesn’t harm you to help. Listen more. Be sympathetic without saying “I told you so.” Standing by someone who is making a choice you don’t agree with is very difficult. You care about them. If it’s your kid, you love him or her, but by not crossing the line into intrusiveness, you convey that you have faith in them. Whether it’s your child or your best friend, resist the urge to give direction. Be slow to answer when your opinion is asked.
Love the other person. This is by far the hardest, best way.