Learn to deal with people for who they are, not who you want them to be. Life gets a lot easier when you stop expecting apple juice from oranges.
For one thing, you’ll have the peace that comes from embracing what is. There’s no worse self-torture than perpetually trying to roll a boulder uphill when the overpowering power of physics has already decided that it’s going down! Everyone is exactly who they were made to be. And there’s solace in accepting and celebrating what makes us all unique, instead of fighting against divine design. Each of us is “fearfully and wonderfully made,” (Psalm 139:14) carefully crafted by God as a uniquely set apart creation.
And for another thing, your relationships will be much more likely to stand the test of time. Many a strong bond has been slowly broken by the resentment that comes from feeling like you’re accepted, but only conditionally. As long as you force yourself to fit into the mold. As long as you make every effort to live up to their standards. But a person can only live like that for so long before they start to despise the one who should be loving them with no strings attached.
Easier Said Than Done
One of the biggest reasons for our frustration with other people is the expectation we had for their lives. It’s difficult to watch a person take a detour from the route you had mapped out in your mind. And it’s especially disappointing when you feel like you’ve bought the car, paid for the insurance, and topped off the tank, only to see them go down a road you’ve deemed to be a dead-end. Be it time, money, or energy, the more you’ve poured into a person, the harder it is to handle when they take an unexpected turn.
Another problem we have is trying to live vicariously through our loved ones. We all have goals we never accomplished or a vision we never realized for our lives. And, sadly, we often try to find fulfillment in seeing those things achieved by someone close to us. We push and pressure them, we maneuver and manipulate them into chasing dreams they never had. And when they don’t cooperate with our puppeteering, we become harsh and demeaning.
And, quite honestly, sometimes people just change, often to the point of outgrowing some of the relationships they’re in. When it happens, many of us mistakenly assume the same growth in others that we’ve experienced ourselves. And we don’t always handle it well when they don’t seem to be adjusting to our new needs and wants.
Whatever the reasons, we often struggle with giving people permission to be themselves. But we make it so much easier on everyone when we do.
The Grace to Let Go
Resolve to relinquish ownership of your loved ones’ decisions and destinies. Stop taking it personally when they don’t take your advice. Stop manipulating them back onto your pre-selected path when they “go astray.” And stop losing sleep over someone else’s journey when you’ve still got one to take yourself.
Resolve to restrict your involvement in their business. This may be a challenging process of disentangling your life from theirs, and it may take some time. But it’s well worth the work to break the bonds of codependency that are dragging you both down.
Resolve to rejoice with them in the things that give them joy. It might be hard at first, but reset your mindset on what their best life is, so you can start to sincerely celebrate with them when they win. Listen for the laughter in their voice. Look for the light in their eyes. Pay attention to what brings it out, and start watering that part of their soul that’s trying to break through to the light.
There’s a fine line between helping the people you love live up to their God-given potential and simply holding them hostage to the life that you want them to live. Pray for the wisdom and discernment to find that line. And to stay on the right side of it.
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