It sucks when bad things happen to good people, especially when those people are the ones you love. It may be the friend that chooses one abusive relationship after another settling for the pleasant moments that are all too far and few in between, or the co-worker who you feel got thrown under the bus for management’s mistakes. When it comes to those we care for, we sometimes become too involved in problems that aren’t of our own making. Before we know it we are swinging on the asshole boyfriend, only for our fair-weather friend to run back into his arms before the dust settles. But the lesson I’ve learned after continuously having my cape fall in my face trying to play Captain Save-‘Em is that you can’t lose your mind in the hope of saving someone else’s sanity. You have to place boundaries on your compassion.
I learned this lesson when I caught myself repeatedly getting angry over a friend’s inability to stand up for herself. Even Louis Braille could see that she was getting played time and time again, but she continued to make excuses for men, family, even employers that took her passiveness for weakness. “He hasn’t called me in two weeks because he’s so busy,” she’d say while I thought, “Yep, busy breaking the other girl he’s seeing off.” And as much as I wanted to blame the jerk “boyfriend”, I had to step back and realize she was as much to blame for allowing this behavior…over and over again.
There are two problems with being a martyr: 1.) The little man you are standing up for never learns how to defend him/herself because they rely on you running in to save the day. 2.) You’re so busy solving everyone else’s problems you begin to neglect your own. What’s even worse is that some of the things you perceive as problems in someone else’s life may not actually be a problem for them. So while you’re losing sleep and getting your pressure all high, the “victim” is completely content with what you know is a fucktarded situation. And since people can literally lock themselves in prisons of denial, you always run the risk of getting accused of “hating” or being jealous.
It’s a struggle to constantly remind myself that as individuals we all have our own paths to follow and some people have to learn the hard way. In an effort to avoid playing the martyr I’ve created one rule for myself: If you like it, I love it. You have two times to take my advice (and it usually has to be solicited). If you repeat the same behaviors, I’ll just take it to mean you’re happy with your situation, and I’ll stop offering. I refuse to stress over other people’s problems that don’t affect me. But I warn you: Don’t complain to me about things that you are unwilling to change. I will just as politely dismiss you. The occasional cry and “all the bad things in life happen to me” vent are acceptable, but I don’t have time for the tears and self-pity from those who choose to do nothing to change their circumstances.
And even with all the advice and well wishes in the world, ultimately although people can’t control what happens to them, they can control how they choose to respond to life’s perils and pitfalls. See I’m a Sag, and we are happy, optimistic people. My days of decorating for personal pity parties and engaging in drama for fun are long gone. I refuse to help people who won’t help themselves. Whether they are victims of their own denial, complacency, or pure laziness, by flying in to save the day you’re only enabling them to be a victim. The hardest but best thing you can do as a bystander is be there and offer your advice; you can’t take it personally when someone refuses to take it.
Sometimes it’s easier to deal with and clean up someone else’s mess instead of getting your hands dirty in your own. But in the end, that does everyone a disservice; how can you hope to help others when you don’t even have yourself together? As selfish as it may sound, you can’t lose your mind fighting for someone who obviously refuses to use theirs.