If I were a Christian, this is the point where I would say, “Jesus, give me patience.” But since I’m an eclectic pagan polytheist, I can also add Hestia, Kwan Yin, and any other deity willing to help to that plea.
I am a true believer that kindness is always your best option. However, there comes a point where showing kindness to someone is not in yours or the other person’s best interest. Those of us who default to “helper” mode need to be careful that our desire to serve does not create dependence in another or allow another person to take advantage of our kindness in a way that harms us.
I have an older friend who is perhaps the most computer-illiterate person I’ve ever met. In fact, she’s downright phobic on the subject. The trouble is, she is also convinced that The Net is a virtual Willie Wonka’s of free stuff, just ripe for the plucking at any time, night or day. Any attempt to educate her on the realities and potential dangers (scams, spyware, etc.) is met with a blank stare and a repetition of the original question, “Well, can’t you just look it up on the computer?” She either does not comprehend, or does not want to comprehend, that my helping her might put my computer and personal data at risk. All she knows is that the stuff she wants is in the magic box, and she gets perturbed that I can’t give it to her.
Okay, I’m simplifying the situation slightly, but it serves to illustrate a point. There are some folks who really need your help. But there are also some folks who are looking to you to do their work–learning, choosing, etc.–for them. Any attempt to foster self-reliance is met with helplessness and resistance.
Dealing with people like this requires a balancing act. As in the case of my older friend, I really don’t think her helplessness comes from deceit or manipulation. I really think she shuts down in the face of anything technological.
It’s easy to put the stops on a person who is manipulating you or using you with malicious intent. It’s much harder to draw boundaries with someone who simply needs more help than you can give without causing harm to yourself.
Drawing strong boundaries is never easy, but in the long run it’s better for all parties involved. You don’t get the life sucked out of you, constantly jumping to the aid of someone who simply needs too much. And they, sometimes, get frustrated enough to push past their fear and limitations to learn something new towards self-reliance.
I signed my friend up for text coupons so she will not be so reliant on The Computer for all those wonderful goodies she so desperately wants.
Now, I just have to teach her how to read the texts on her cell phone.
Kwan Yin, give me patience.
Good night, dear souls.
Background Music: Sonata Quarta In D Major by Johann Heinrich Schmelzer