The Third Option: A Response to Take Nothing Personally

This post was originally published on February 10, 2014. I will have a fresh topic for my readers on Monday!

Feed the real hunger, which is a plea for understanding. It’s their cry for help. The question is how we answer the cry. It starts with compassion. I’m not talking about pity, or pop psychologizing someone in the heat of their rage. That will make it worse. I’m talking about genuinely feeling compassion for the other person, and hearing their pain.

From Take Nothing Personally.

I strongly recommend reading the entire post I linked to above. It’s short and has an extremely powerful message.

By no means should this blog post be construed as a criticism of “Take Nothing Personally.”  I’ve seen how genuine compassion can transform people that you’d never imagine would be capable of such great change, but I would argue that there’s a third option other than responding with anger or compassion.

Compassion-LogoTake a step back.

Not every battle has your name on it. Not every person you meet will be willing to (or capable of) changing. Sometimes the kindest and most compassionate thing you can do is stop trying to fix someone who hasn’t reached a place in his or her life yet when they’re ready to take that step.

I’m not saying that we should completely cut off people who cry out for help through their anger, abrasiveness, or overwhelming desire to control others. Life isn’t always that black and white.

But you can turn the dial down. Call once a week instead of every day, or visit a few times a year instead of twice a month. There are many ways to set limits, and doing so can be really good for your mental health. Some relationships work better with a little distance.

The beautiful thing about steps is that they’re flexible and reversible. The limits you set today might be completely unnecessary tomorrow. Or they might need to be drawn in tighter in order to keep the relationship as healthy as possible.

By all means practice compassion, but remember that it can be used in a wide variety of ways and from any distance.

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