You Can’t Want “it” For Someone

posted by Andrea | 04/10/2018

Over the course of my life, there have been countless situations when I’ve wished someone could be more organized, simplify their schedule, eliminate needless stress from their life, stop wasting money on frivolous things, and arrive anywhere even remotely on-time.

At times, these wishes are for my own benefit — I’m tired of waiting for the late person to show up, I’m tired of helping someone clean and organize their home week after week with almost nothing to show for our efforts, and I’m tired of listening to others lament their “horrible financial position” when I see some of the poor financial choices they make.

However, more often, my wishes are because I know how much happier these individuals, couples, and families would be if they got more organized, if they simplified their crazy schedules, if they eliminated stress from their daily lives, if they stopped wasting money, and if they actually got up when their alarms went off (who would have thought!)

Some of these people are past clients, some of them are friends and neighbors, some of them are relatives — and as you all know, it’s hard to watch people we know and love suffer needlessly when we realize how much different (often better) their situations could be… if only they took action!

The problem is… we can’t want “it” (whatever “it” is) for anyone else.

Whether it’s something relatively small in the grand scheme of life (getting more organized or eating healthier) or something much larger (wayward faith or unhealthy relationships), there is no way WE can make someone else change, no matter how badly WE want it for them and no matter how much WE think it will benefit them.

I think all parents of crabby toddlers, stubborn teens, and wayward adult children are nodding their heads right now! 

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The point of this post is not to tell you something you don’t already know.

We all know this… we might not admit it, but we know it.

Rather, it’s simply to reiterate it one more time — maybe just because you needed to hear it again (yes, I’m speaking to myself here too!)

photos @ Frederick Meyer Garden’s Butterfly Exhibit

We can try to help, offer our best tips, advice, and suggestions, provide visible proof that our way is better, bribe, reward, beg, plead, etc. but unless the other person WANTS TO CHANGE, it’s not going to happen.

They will live with clutter or in complete chaos until THEY want to change.

They will dig themselves deeper into debt until THEY want to change.

They will pursue unhealthy relationships until THEY want to change.

They will eat an unbalanced diet and have poor nutrition until THEY want to change.

They will live stressed-out, over-scheduled lives until THEY want to change.

At that point, we will hopefully still be around to offer help if asked.

Until then, we take a step back, realizing there is often nothing we can do, except wait (and pray… if you pray).

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I know this is a little heavier than my normal tips, recipes, and cute baby photos — but it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately and I wanted to share.

I hope it gives you something to think about too… and maybe the freedom to just step back, let go, and move on (at least for now.)

OK, here’s one cute baby picture… just to lighten the mood! 🙂

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35 comments

  1. Summer

    04/19/2018

    One of my favorite sayings is “You can only control or change yourself.” When I feel that frustration watching poor choices, lack of activity or feel the need to jump in and say or do something for whomever… I step back and remind myself I can only change or control ME.

    I also remind myself that while I can’t change someone else and I am witness to some of this, that I can change the way I THINK about what ever situation. Some relationships you simply can’t or won’t give up, so you continue to watch in frustration. I have found ways to change my thinking so I can tolerate it. Some times it’s a little mantra in my head while listening, once again, but I learn to find peace for me with it.

    An example, years ago we got stuck paying on something that we shouldn’t have and each month when I made that payment I told myself how great it was that I didn’t have to deal with that person anymore and it was worth the price of writing that check. Maybe not that greatest example, but it’s what popped in and it saved me from massive bitterness over it.

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    Andrea Reply:

    exactly! so much less bitterness for you and that’s all you can control!

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  2. Trixie

    04/14/2018

    Spot on. I see so much of this in my life with people I care about.

    One thing I have to work very hard at is setting proper boundries. The choices of others that results in problems or “emergencies” for them are NOT my responsibility to solve. No matter how much they think it is. Just because someone chooses not to make the necessary steps to live below their means to save money for unexpected expenses does not entitle them to our hard saved nest eggs.

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  3. Kathy

    04/11/2018

    I was just ragging on myself today about hitting the snooze alarm too often – so this hit close to home. I don’t have to worry about waking up on time each day of the future, just today. I’m adopting that mindset so I don’t defeat myself coming out of the gate.

    You’ll never know how much your website helps me – thanks and God bless!

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    Andrea Reply:

    haha — well we all have those mornings! but yes, just focus on today (or maybe tomorrow as it’s 9:30pm for me right now!)

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  4. Marsha

    04/11/2018

    Thank you for reminding me. I have a family member who is a hoarder, living in a complete mess. I feel so bad for her, but she’s got to want to clean it up. I see how this is destroying her entire life, but I can’t make her do anything about it. I’m only here to encourage her, not show her how to fix it all.

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  5. Natalia

    04/11/2018

    Hi Andrea,
    How appropriate that you used the pictures with butterflies for this post!
    As we cannot hurry the process and “help” the butterfly to come out of its cocoon earlier than it should be (or else it will be either damaged or not strong enough to fly solo), so we cannot hurry or push someone beyond their will. We can only cheer them on when they are ready for the change to take place and want it for themselves.
    I loved the post AND the pictures!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Natalia! I was hoping someone would pick up on the symbolism 🙂

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  6. Chris K in Wisconsin

    04/10/2018

    This is so very true. We can only do what we can, and then we have to move on. To all you young moms,,,, this gets OH SO HARD when it is your adult children. We want to “help”, yet we can’t push so hard that we are asked to stop and there are upset feelings that we are “butting in”. They have to make their own mistakes, but it isn’t easy when we KNOW if they only listened to us it would all be better. 🙂 That is why encouraging them as they grow to put their toys away, learn to help cook and clean, do their laundry, be on time, honor commitments, save some money, spend wisely, etc. etc. is so incredibly important. Seriously consider starting these basic skills as early as you possibly can because they really ARE observing and learning from a very early age.
    Great post, Andrea!!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Chris!

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    Jenny Reply:

    Totally agree!

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  7. Liane

    04/10/2018

    Sitting here feeling sheepish about all the times I urged you to change your diet. You did but it was not because I wanted it for you. You did it because it was time. I’m sorry for being so pushy.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha — I guess you’re right! However, if it helps you sleep better at night, please know that this thought never even entered my mind as I wrote my post for today. Your “pushiness” was hardly even noticed on my end!

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  8. Stephanie

    04/10/2018

    When I read this post, I had the same reaction as the others who posted-you hit the nail on the head. It’s good to see what I have thought in print. It’s also a good reminder. My husband and I always like to use the saying “What’s the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” I try to use that in our life to inspire change when things aren’t going well.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Stephanie — and yes, that’s a great quote!

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  9. Evie

    04/10/2018

    Oh Andrea, talk about a timely post! I had just this conversation with a friend on the phone *yesterday* with me being the one needing to hear the message. My heart has been aching for the past year or so with a couple of “if only” scenarios that seem to play in a loop. I am determined to step back and stop worrying, stop feeling such a need to help. Yes, I will still be here when I’m asked for input, but *no more private hours of heartache over things I have no control over in the lives of people I love and care about*. By the way, this is not being cold, not being hard hearted, not lacking empathy or lacking compassion. It’s just a sensible change in perspective that makes more space for peace and joy in my days. I still care, of course I do, but I care about me, too… Here’s my plan: I know I can’t quit cold turkey LOL, so any time worry and heartache hit me, I’ve determined to stop right where I am, take a couple deep breaths deeply exhaled the way a sigh is exhaled, say a short, heartfelt prayer for the person, and then instead of dwelling in fruitless worry and heartach, I’ll move my involvement quickly back to the peace and joy I get from truly living fully in my own life–heart, mind, and soul.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Sounds like a great plan Evie — Thanks for sharing!

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  10. JJ

    04/10/2018

    That is an amazing pic with the butterfly, you, and Clara! Yes, it is frustrating, especially when someone else’s “it” affects you personally. When I read the book Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend, that empowered me to let things go and to set up boundaries so that my kids especially aren’t negatively impacted. We can’t change people, but the Lord can! And often it’s our actions that inspire others, not just nagging them(sometimes guilty!). GREAT post!!!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks — I thought that picture turned out well too! And yes, thanks for pointing out that we can bring about more changes with our actions versus nagging and judging!

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  11. Lynn

    04/10/2018

    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! This is an awesome post and something we all need to hear. I’ve learned this lesson over and over in my life and I so get it! I just need to remember. Thank you again, Andrea, for a great post and great baby pic!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    you’re welcome 🙂

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  12. Linda

    04/10/2018

    Excellent Andrea! God has gifted you with wisdom and sanctified common sense!!

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  13. Michelle

    04/10/2018

    Change is better left to the Holy Spirit who draws us to repentance by His love and kindness. We are created, called, and changed by Him!

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  14. Deni

    04/10/2018

    I’ve said it before…Andrea, you could be a phsycologist. You are so on point with this post! It took me years to realize that I can’t change people, that I can only choose how to react or not react to them. Sometimes that is really hard.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha — I have a psychology minor. Maybe that helps! I also dealt with LOTS of hoarders and people with emotional clutter when I worked in client’s homes, so I have some experience!

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  15. Charlotte

    04/10/2018

    I have been a “follower” of your site for years. You have no idea how much I “re-look” at your posts.
    Your words of wisdom today have come at a time when I definitely needed to hear/read this.

    I’m printing this post out so I can “remind” myself that’s it ok.

    Thank you!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks so much Charlotte!

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  16. Anonymous

    04/10/2018

    Yes! Amen! My *add•to•the•List is:
    “They will continue having Marriage problems (after 30 plus yrs) until they BOTH want harmony & a peaceful Marriage, more than to prove the other one WRONG!”

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    Andrea Reply:

    yes… sigh 🙁

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  17. Amber Woods

    04/10/2018

    Andrea,
    How did you edit the picture of you and Clara with the butterfly?

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    I use PicMonkey — I make the whole picture Black and White and then add back the color. It’s just one of the settings (and I’m not really sure how to accurately describe it — but it’s easy once you figure out the setting!)

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  18. Shelley

    04/10/2018

    I have to say that this may be your best post ever with just how much truth is in it. It reminds me of that old saying an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. I watch people struggle needlessly and I am grieved for them. And I have to say that I feel even sorrier for their husbands and children who seem to bear the brunt of it.

    Anyway, much wisdom and knowledge! I am always looking for better way to help life run more smoothly, and I have implemented many of your tips. Thanks!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    wow thanks Shelley!

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  19. Erin

    04/10/2018

    Nail on the head.
    I’m a Dave Ramsey FPU Coordinator. It’s been difficult to share my journey only to have friends and family do the exact opposite. But it’s THEIR life, not mine. I consider it planting seeds. Some will bloom, some won’t. But that’s all I have to do. Plant seeds and water if interest is shown.
    Thanks for sharing!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    this is a great way of putting it — planting a seed that may or may not bloom. Thanks for sharing Erin!

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