Recently, I made a bold move with someone I care about, and see frequently (no, this isn’t my wife). After several years of hearing her complain about the same thing (I promise it’s not my wife), I listened to her complain for close to an hour about this again. This was after a long day and week of work, so I was done listening to people complain (that happens as a therapist). Thus, I calmly said, “Person whose name I won’t say, I will let you complain about work for two more months. If by July first (a clear timeline) you don’t have a new job I will refuse to listen to you complain about work anymore (a set boundary); you can complain about other things, but I’ll be done listening to you complain about this. You’ve been saying you’ve wanted a new job for 3 years and you are yet to even do a resume. Two weeks ago a friend told you to fill out an application at her work because they’re hiring and you haven’t even done that. I don’t care if you think you’re busy (she’s not); you need to do something to fix your situation.” I don’t know how I would rate my bold comment, but I do know I needed to do something before I totally lose it on her or simply avoid her because resentment has set in. I really care about this person, but there is a limit. Not knowing what else to do, I wrote a story that I may or may not offer to her in the future since she works with kids and she can use it with them.
Long ago there was a baker named Taylor. (Is this person a man or woman, who knows? It’s a gender neutral name to be more inclusive, but I’ll be using ‘he’ because it’s two letters unlike ‘she’, which is three letters, and I’m too waaaay lazy to write that much.) From Monday to Saturday Taylor hooked up his donkey and wagon to go to town where he would sell his wares, and then on Sunday, he enjoyed doing yard work for his elderly neighbor. One Monday morning Taylor went to hook up his donkey, B-donk-a-donk, (he was terrible at naming his animals) but the hitch was broken. Taylor didn’t have time to fix the hitch and he didn’t have a way to saddle B-donk-a-donk, so he grabbed all the baked goods he could carry, and he walked to town by himself. Taylor didn’t have as much wares to sell, but he was able to sell enough to get by. At the end of the day, when he got home, he felt too tired to fix the hitch. This set up continued all week where Taylor was too worse for wear from selling his wares (yes, I think I’m clever). Taylor shared his woes with his friends and they were all sympathetic, and offered help, but he said this was something he had to do on his own. That Sunday, his day off from going to the market, Taylor helped his neighbor instead of taking care of the hitch because he didn’t want to let her down. This meant that, once again, Taylor was left Monday morning carrying his wares to town to sell and being too tired to fix the hitch at night. This pattern continued for that week, and the next, and the next, and the next, and the next, the next, and the next, and the next, and then at that point Taylor realized his friends weren’t around as much for him to talk to like before. Because of this, whenever he could track down a friend he would ask him or her, “Why aren’t you around as much anymore?” Everyone he talked to had one of three basic responses. The first group said, “We were never that close, and now that you’re always complaining, we don’t want to be near you.” They weren’t very good friends… or people. The second group was a bit nicer; they said, “You’re always complaining about the same thing, and it’s driving us crazy. You need to have something positive or at least something new to talk about for us to want to talk to you anymore.” The third group were his closest friends, and they said, “We care about you so much, but you won’t let us help, and you just seem to want to complain. It hurts us to hear you so sad and not do anything to fix your situation. We’re worn out from feeling sorry for you and need a break.” Unfortunately, every time someone told him why they weren’t around as much, he quickly started defending himself. Of course, every time he did that, each person walked away even more annoyed and hurt because they tried to be honest and it was thrown back in their face. To make matters worse, their reaction left Taylor feeling completely alone, and he couldn’t see why his so-called friends wouldn’t be there to support him, especially when he was so kind to help his elderly neighbor on his day off. Taylor’s walks to and from town became more and more miserable, and he continued to fall further into despair. He was stuck, and couldn’t see a way out, but was there a way out? If there was, he couldn’t see it, so he just continued to carry on in this miserable state.
What Taylor didn’t realize is he has 2 options:
- He can continue whining and feeling sorry for himself (this is what he chose)
- He can fix the frig’n hitch!! If he chooses this answer (the right answer) he has a number of options for doing this. For instance, he can skip helping his neighbor for a day. This is the best answer because he’s doing a favor, and he’s allowed to say no to take care of himself properly. Plus, if he’s really worried about her, he can get a friend to cover for him for a day, or do more work for her the following week. His second option is to go hungry for a day to fix the hitch, or even do a shorter day, since fixing the hitch won’t take all day. Another option is he can pay someone to fix the hitch while he’s working and making the money, which he can use to pay for the work being done.
Note: Not letting friends help can make the friends feel helpless and hurt since they’re not being allowed to help. Sometimes it’s better to let others help us for their benefit.
Bonus: Regardless of his decision, Taylor needs to apologize to his friends for being a B-donk-a-donk, and work at not feeling like a victim who has no ability to fix his situation. We all need to vent our frustrations, but no one has the right to stay stuck in a spot and expect people to be willing to hear the same complaints over and over again, especially when there’s a solution to the problem.
Rev. Chad David, ChadDavid.ca, learning to love dumb people