Have you ever been treated like someone else’s project, as if by spending time with them or taking their advice they can fix you and that is the biggest reason they are investing time in you? Have you ever realized you’ve done this to someone?
“Friends are not ‘projects’ and we shouldn’t treat people or be treated in that way. “
I’m a firm believer in the power of friendship as an encouragement, a way of lifting each other up, and even helping to aline our lives down a good path, but this should be a symptom of true friendship, not the reason for it to exist.
Friends are not ‘projects’ and we shouldn’t treat people or be treated that way. Why? Three reasons stand out to me.
- It detracts from individual responsibility
- It’s condescending
- It’s Damaging
Unless you’re a medical doctor you can’t ‘fix people’. Encourage them? Give them a safe person to confide in? Uphold them in difficult life circumstances? Be a voice of truth? Absolutely. These are things we should all try to do for friends when they need it. But we need to recognize that the only person that can initiate true lasting change in someone’s life, is that person. The same goes for you. Now one can change you unless you want to be changed.
“Your worthiness of friendship also doesn’t depend on how put together your life is.”
Trying to change people or letting someone run our lives in this kind of way creates a toxic co-dependent relationship. As soon as one of you gets tired of the situation and there is a brake, everything crumbles. If the ‘help’ that was being offered was bad, this crumbling can be a good thing, bringing an individual back to a place where they can start to change themselves rather than conform to someone else’s ideas. But sometimes healing from ‘help’ takes years. If the help was good but offered in the wrong way it can crush confidence and motivation, leaving an individual feeling as if they can never change.
Your worthiness of friendship also doesn’t depend on how put together your life is. Your world might be burning, but you are still capable of giving life, love, and kindness. We all have things we need to grow in, and parts of us that may need to be discarded so that healthy growth can happen, no one is perfect.
Let me repeat myself, “No one is perfect.” This is something we say all the time but never listen to. It can be used as a crutch, an excuse to stay the way we are even though we know something might need to change, but it’s also an uncomfortable reminder that we are never better than another human being. That is really what’s at the core of feeling a need to change someone. It’s looking down our noses at people as if they are less than us because they may struggle with something we see as bad.
3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”– Matthew 7 NIV Holly Bible –
This bible verse gives me a powerful visual of two friends picking at each other’s faces, refusing to acknowledge they might actually not be able to see clearly enough to help the other remove the problem. Ouch… Can you imagine the pain those individuals would be inflicting on each other?
Let’s take a step back and realize that even if our desire is to help a friend, we might not have the right tools, knowledge, or capacity to actually help, and admitting that is completely okay. Locking the ability to fix someone also doesn’t make you less than others, it makes you pretty normal.
When we tinker in people’s lives and minds it can leave scars much like an unqualified surgeon leaves if he messes around in someone’s gut having no idea what he is cutting and throwing away. Can you imagine letting someone like that cut you open? It’s a horrifying thought.
If our intentions are truly for the betterment of the people we love we have a responsibility to tread carefully and be honest with our ability to help and not hurt. Also, be careful who you allow to become close enough to have access to those eyes that might have a speck of dust in them or a log. Any offers of advice or actionable help should be given with respect, not condescension.
Also, if we do not enter into friendship with honest intentions we run the risk of damaging someone’s ability to trust.
Some things to consider about our friendships:
Do we truly enjoy the person we are investing time and advice in, and do they enjoy us?
Are we confident in the friendship would last if the ‘help’ being offered is refused or doesn’t work?
Are we free to reject the advice being given?
I have said it before while writing this series on friendship, but relationships are hard, complex, and also worth the work. Unless it’s a doctor-to-patient/counsellor-to-client relationship, its purpose is not to ‘fix’ but to support.
Is there something you would like to add to this discussion? Please do so in the comment section. This write-up is by no means an extensive guild to friendship, but if it’s made you think, it’s done its job. Thank you for reading.
Mary Grace van der Kroef
Websites referenced in this article:
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