This is particularly relevant to consider in dealing with those who could be considered possessive—the anxiously attached. I find that sense of spiritual identity in me, to a certain extent, and so I’m therefore ‘qualified’ to write on this—about how others have successfully interacted with me, for example.
Sometimes it is appropriate (read, “helpful”) to give someone a lot of attention—to feed their gaping desire for love, but much of the time we do not love them best (or, we simply do not love them) by placating them. Placating, or appeasing, may be more about our own anxious needs than theirs.
Each person must be encouraged to sink or swim of their own accord; to take responsibility for their own lives.
We shouldn’t go on and on rescuing people, as we do them harm by creating a circumstance of reliance.
The foreseeable exceptions are these:
When someone’s been stricken by a loss of any kind we could expect them to cling to a safe mooring (in us) as they weather the storm of their grief.
They’ll need someone or a couple of people with whom to rest with and journey with.
Within the acuteness of grief’s pain there should be solace in connecting with people if that is the need. But equally, as carers, we need to discern when to leave people as they are to do their own processing. Again, we need to ask ourselves, “Who are we really trying to support when we desire to help people?” Sometimes people try and support others out of their own needs in order to feel good. But in this scenario, no one benefits.
When people intentionally put themselves in the path of growth and learning—because God has kindled their hunger—they may be safely attached to a mentor for specific guided activities.
Both parties of this mentoring arrangement are blessed. That’s the guide that all is working well. Whenever there is an encumbrance on one party, a burden so-to-speak, it’s no longer about growth; and an unhealthy dependence has formed.
But when growth is at the forefront, we can afford to pour our attention into people.
Balancing the giving of attention is the art of wisdom in relationships. We shouldn’t neglect people, nor should we rescue them. Each has to live their life without depending on other people too much. But when people are suffering and they need us, any positive attention we give them, at the time, is good attention.
We shouldn’t rescue people from situations they should be handling themselves, with two exceptions: in grief and in growth. The grieving need our support, and the growing need our encouragement. Balancing the attention we pay to people is a mark of discerned wisdom.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.