Free will is an important, if not essential part of being a human being. This means we are all free to make mistakes or to ask for help if we need it. Giving advice is often counter-productive for this reason. If a person is ready and receptive to the fruit of others’ experiences, that person will most certainly be willing and able to ask for help.
So what happens when you encounter a person in a situation where you have prior experience and you feel that this person is going to make or is currently making a really terrible decision? And you suspect that decision will have reverberating consequences in this person’s life for many years thereafter?
I ask this question for two reasons. One, because I like to help people, and secondly, personal growth and healing are subjects that truly interest me.
I started thinking about this subject last night. Yesterday was my birthday, and a friend met me and my son to visit an art exhibit and have dinner with us. She started to talk to me about her sister, who is romantically involved with a young man who is a convicted felon currently serving a sentence in prison. This friend’s sister, whom I have never met, has a PhD degree and is a college professor. Apparently she is working three jobs to make extra money to support this man, whom she hopes to marry, once he gets out of jail. Also, he is about ten years younger than herself, with a tenth grade education. She only started dating him after his incarceration. They met when he was her student.
My friend’s life path is similar to my own in some ways. She and I both have mothers who suffer from mental illness – hers diagnosed, my mother’s not. We both have or had fathers who are very passive and in my case, co-dependent. Not sure about my friend’s father. In any case, these two sisters suffer from low self-esteem despite being educated, young, attractive, and intelligent. The sister with the incarcerated fiance seems to have control issues and prefers men who are unavailable. They both want to be married in the worst way, literally. My friend, the youngest in her family, is very introverted. She has never dated a man, but she is currently in therapy and growing.
Today, I sent an e-mail to my friend. She has told me that another female friend of hers who is very outgoing is encouraging her to use on-line dating services. I know my friend gives a lot of credence to the advice of extraverted people, whom she assumes have more knowledge and know-how about life. I encouraged her to know that all of the love and wisdom that she will ever need are already inside of her and available to her at any moment. I have come to realize that being quiet and introverted is not a liability, as our primarily extraverted American society would have us believe. It is an asset. Spiritual connection to self is only possible through quiet, isolation, and inner driven search for self-knowledge and awareness. I have made a lot of mistakes and poor decisions in my own life, but I now realize that this bumbling and suffering has led me to a place where I am at last beginning to truly love and cherish myself.
Does my friend need to suffer as I have in order to find out what I have learned? This is highly possible. Still, I feel compelled to share with her my thoughts and feelings. She may draw something or nothing from this contribution.
When I reflect on the question: “How can I help?” , the answer comes back to me that I should remain available mentally, emotionally, and spiritually for my friend, supporting her and her sister in my thoughts. When and if they are ready, then either of them can call on me for help. Or, they may find that support from my thoughts that allows them to make their own decisions and grow from there. Personal freedom must always be maintained and respected. Maintaining a loving, supportive, and non-judgmental attitude is not always easy, but I think, overall, it is the best way to be a good friend and to be helpful.