Holy in the Daily

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What to Do When Compassion Doesn’t Work

Are you stuck in the mud in the name of compassion with people who seem to LIKE standing knee-deep in mud?

They’ve let their boots sink into the gooey clay and seem to have no intention of moving on to gentle paths and picturesque meadows… no matter how much they complain about the mud on their boots … or how much you try to pull them out of the yuck.

Here’s how Pam described it the other day when she asked for my input:

I’m really confused about what to do with people who won’t get unstuck when they are stuck spiritually as well as in other ways and continue to live lives of gloom and doom … while all of us who love them try to encourage them.

My word picture is that they are like a truck that is stuck in the mud … and we, their friends, try to stuff things under their wheels to give them traction, but they refuse to put on the gas to do their part to get out of their stuck places.

What is our responsibility as believers in these cases? What can we actually do to help people in these situations?

Take your compassion cue from Jesus

Have you ever noticed that Jesus, who majored in compassion, didn’t solve everyone’s problems when he walked on earth? Yes, he solved many, but he always left something for the individual to do for himself.

Some people followed through. Many didn’t. Few even said, “Thank you.”

I think Jesus sometimes did that as a weeding out process of those who weren’t serious about taking responsibility for their lives. Everyone needs help, but no one needs to be spoiled. It’s bad for their emotional and spiritual health.

Yes, we are to carry someone’s burden. That doesn’t mean we are to carry the person (Galatians 6:2).

A burden is like a backpack. We’re to help carry a backpack, but not the person. Don’t confuse the two.

Since wringing someone’s neck is out of the question as believers, here’s what you can do when faced with frustration over stuck people …

Compassion sometimes looks like this:

  • Continue to encourage and pray for the person. Send a card once a week or stop by for a short visit.
  • Give your advice. Repeat it once. Then don’t give the same advice again.
  • When the whining starts … change the subject. If the individual resents you because you aren’t willing to listen to her complaint, let her know that you’ve already heard it and given her your advice. You’d like to talk about something else now.
  • Limit yourself on what you actually volunteer to do for the person. Choose one thing to volunteer for and nothing more. For example, you might volunteer to bring dinner over once a week, or drive the person to a doctor’s appointment when needed.
  • If the person isn’t willing to work toward healthy goals, don’t push or lecture. This is his life and his choices. You need to respect that …. and say so!
  • Avoid taking on guilt when it is dished out. You’re plate is already full, and you don’t need to add guilt to the mix. You have your own life to be responsible for … don’t take on the responsibility for another. You don’t have the grace for that (Ephesians 4:7).

Here’s a few other posts from the archives that might help you process your muddy situation: How to Respond to a Drama Queen and How to Keep People From Draining the Peace Out of Your Day.

Is it really compassion?

Compassion is to be embraced. Enabling is not. And sometimes it’s hard to know the difference. But once you learn, you’ll be a better friend for it.

OK, now it’s your turn. What can you add to my comments for Pam?

Have a great weekend, and if you found this post helpful, please pass it on … with one of the share buttons below.



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