Everyone’s been there before: A loved one is headed down the wrong path, and while you see the cliff at the other end -Be it weight, relationship, abuse, health, career, attitude, family- no amount of signing, screaming, or creative redirection seems to matter.
They pick up speed.
And one of two things happen.
1) You desperately throw yourself at them in some grand gesture/ intervention/ conversation/ act/ etc, essentially hoping to tackle them to the ground before they reach the edge.
2) Having reached the place where you think nothing you can do will matter, you stand down in silence/ acknowledgment/ distance/ severance/ anticipation of a mediator, essentially hoping to opt out of the violence to come.
Either of those scenarios may be exactly what that person needs, or may be the exact opposite. But too often, we make this judgment call ourselves both in spite of and because of the risk: Believing that if nothing else, we have to do SOMETHING.
Hoping when it’s all over, both you and they will know and appreciate that you didn’t stand by idly while they self-destructed. Which by the way, doesn’t usually happen.
You cannot change or control anyone’s actions, feelings, or thoughts. You can do what God’s placed you here to do: Shed light on the right path, communicate the right direction to take. But a person’ vision has to be intact and their eyes open, ready to receive communication clearly.
Communicating isn’t just about what’s going on with the communicator spiritually and personally, and what they share. It’s just as much about whether they can reach their audience. That means where the audience is spiritually and personally, and what the audience receives, matters more.
If a communicator is not understood, communication has failed. Doesn’t matter how perfect the message was. It was not received. That can happen for a number of reasons that have nothing to do with the communicator.
So why meddle? For the sake of some earthly scorecard of friendship intervention?
If someone says they don’t want to talk about it, doesn’t tell you what’s wrong, doesn’t ask what you think, or show up to listen to you wax poetic on a related topic, that’s not code for communicator challenge 350:
They are not ready to listen to you. Don’t take it personally.
Forcing an unsolicited, uninvited opinion -poorly disguised as a lamp to someone’s feet- is skipping past the first, easiest, and most important indication of whether your message will be received: Availability.
No one else can make that decision but the receiver. Not their spouse, sibling, coworker, therapist, pastor, or best friend.
The receiver alone determines their availability to receive.
Human interaction is a decision. Forcing it at any point is a violation and will do more damage than good.
So be mindful of with whom, when, and how you choose to share your input, thoughts, ideas and opinions.
Be clear on whether you’re sharing as investment into a meaningful exchange, or begrudgingly speaking on deaf ears for the benefit of your conscience.
Be aware that often, pain can make it difficult for someone to clearly communicate what they need. Know the difference between a cry for help and a demand for space. Hint: A cry for help will include them making themselves available on some level for such help.
Be discerning of whether, regardless of the words or posture they choose, someone is truly ready to receive. This isn’t static: Folks may shut down in the middle of an intense conversation. Don’t go on autopilot and bulldoze through that critical moment.
Be sensitive. If someone seems to suddenly become upset/angry/etc. there’s an 80% chance they are. And a 100% chance it has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with how they received what you’re sharing. Explain they seem (insert emotion here) and ask if you’re misinterpreting that. Ask if they want to revisit the conversation another time.
Once you or someone else becomes emotionally unhinged, the exchange has turned downhill. Everything shared and received is done through a filter that obscures meaning and intent. Opt out.
Or if you must push forward do so because you’re prepared to minister to someone from a place high above where emotions fall apart.
Do not worry that if you don’t say anything or intervene when you believe you know best, something will go wrong that you could have prevented.
That’s confusing selfishness and selflessness at someone else’s expense.
There is only one God capable of intervening, and He either put you in position to deliver a message for another to receive, or He didn’t.
You will know the difference: He ain’t stymied by communication challenges.
Release judgment and fear and let folks live and make their own mistakes. Your meddling may force them to fail a test designed to strengthen them.
It’s not your job to fix anyone, and logging failed attempts for the record doesn’t help.