A Friend in Need
We make assumptions as to how they got there. We judge people by what we see. We can only see through our own perspective. Everything is relative. Whether rich or poor, no one's life is perfect. What are you comparing it to?
You don't know someone's story until you get to know them.
What feels like a blessing to you ay be a tragedy to someone else. What you're trying to get away from, someone else is wishing they could be where you are.
- One person feels trapped in an abusive household and can't get away from their family. Another person would do anything to feel like they're a part of a family.
- One person dreads going to work every day, trying to figure out how to quit a job they hate. Someone else is praying for a job of any kind so they can support themselves or their family.
- One person struggles to get out of a relationship they feel trapped in. Someone else is so lonely, they'll tolerate any attention, negative or otherwise so they don't feel the loneliness anymore.
You cannot offer a helping hand from high atop the mountain. Who can reach your outstretched hand then? If you coming from a place of your own goals, not theirs, someone everyone is going to wind up sorely disappointed. If you want to offer someone support, you have to reach them where they are.
If you want to help someone, start by listening. Listen to the stories they first share with you. Those are the highest priority to them. Those are what keeps them up at night. After you listen, repeat back to them what you heard. If you noticed strong emotions behind a particular story, show compassion, offer empathy, ask if you understand their story correctly. Ask questions to clarify the stories. Hear their stories. Most importantly, LISTEN from a place of service, not from a place of judgment. If you catch yourself forming opinions about the situation, consider how their decisions resonate with you (or don't).
Then and only then, will you know what they truly need. They may not even realize what they really need. We've all heard the infamous fish story:
A man who is starving asks for a fish. Will you hand the man a fish or will you build him up to catch his own? If you hand the man a fish, he may come back the next day to buy yet another fish from you, but if he finds someone who charges less or gives him more, why would he return?
If, after meeting with you, he feels more self-confident because he is more self-reliant, when he's ready to move ahead again in his life, he will remember that you were the one who taught him to feel better about himself.
Whether you can help with their situation or not, there is healing in the story.
When you tell a story for the first time, it's from the place of a victim. Whether you are a victim of a crime, a personal attack or even a victim of circumstance, you tell the story as something that happened TO you. Look what you had to go through. Look how you suffered. Look how scary or painful it was, but you overcame it! You made it through that pain, you faced your fear....and you came out ahead. What lessons did you learn from that experience? Did you learn what you were capable of? Did you learn who's got your back and who doesn't? Would you make different decisions if you were faced with that situation again?
A victim of abuse doesn't openly share their story for fear of being judged.
When they first start talking about it, they may even justify the abuse. They "should have behaved differently", they can't help it. they didn't mean it.
As they hear themselves telling the story, they gain perspective, they realize how their story sounds. They realize that someone is listening because they deserve to be listened to. That's the first step - to know you deserve better.
Every time they tell their story, they realize someone cares enough to listen. If someone can gain or learn from their experience, their confidence is magnified because now they can feel like a hero. They sacrificed themselves to teach the lesson they just shared. If they can change one life as a result....it will not be in vain. Offer your support, listen from a place of service and stay right where they are.
You will be tempted to say, "why don't you just leave?" It's not that simple. There's an emotional reason that keeps them there. Until they come to the realization that they don't have to live this way, you trying to convince them will only damage the trust between you. By telling them what to do, you're not trusting them to make the right decisions. You're reinforcing the doubts they have in themselves.
If you feel they are literally in immediate physical danger, call it in. Report the situation to the proper authorities. Do what you have to do, but TELL THEM you're doing so.
They may get upset with you for "butting in" their business, but isn't it better to have a living friend mad at you then to have a dead friend who knew you could keep a secret? Yes that may sound a bit extreme but better to err on the side of caution than to chance that things are worse than you thought.
If you go behind their back to report it, they'll likely see it as a betrayal of their confidence and you'll never hear from them again.
What will happen: authorities investigate, they are offered to press charges, they decline or they do press charge, but then drop the charges.
Now, they've pissed off their abuser and likely got in more trouble or they forgave the abuser only to fall victim again, but you betrayed their confidence so, as far as they're concerned, they can't talk to you anymore.
they feel like you'll judge them because they were a fool to go back to their abuser. They're busy beating themselves up. They don't want to hear your "I told you so"s. (No matter how strongly you suggest that it's not the case, that's what they'll hear from their perspective because they're "yelling at themselves" for not listening to their gut feeling.)
Listen from a place of serving, to help them heal, not to solve their problem for them. Subconsciously, they know what to do, they just have to get there emotionally. They have to feel strong enough to know that things will work out. Understand where they are.
If you have story that relates, build trust with them by sharing it with them. What your saying to them by this action is: "Who am I to judge when I've made similar mistakes?" or "Nothing you say will surprise me because I've heard these stories before".
When we're in the middle of a mess (as far as we're concerned), we feel like no one understands. That abandoned feeling is what leaves us vulnerable. It perpetuates fear: of being judged, of making the same mistakes over and over again, of trusting the wrong people.
In this mindset, we believe that the opinion of others is more valuable than our own. Consider it this way, if we show them that we believe they are worth more than they believe they do, they will eventually believe you.
A mistake that is often made is discrediting the abuser. Pointing out the faults of the person that they "love" or still have some loyalty to (no matter what the reason is) is not going to lead this in the direction you want this to go. You will only alienate them slimming the chance of gaining their trust.
If you're listening, they must be worth something. If you care, let them know why.
When someone is listening:
- We feel valued (someone actually wants to know me),
- Supported (someone wants me to be happy) and
- Empowered (I trust them enough that I can be honest with them and ask for help if I need to).
If you want to make a difference in people's lives but it feels like people just aren't listening to you, don't give up. If you have a story to tell, you deserve to be heard. If you have something to say, you deserve to be heard.....and no matter what anyone tells you, even the voice in your head, you deserve to KNOW without a doubt that YOU matter! What you want matters. If someone has ever led you to believe otherwise, consider why they hold your power!