How much should I care about my friends? I don’t ask in the sense that I’m contemplating ignoring or even hating, but rather, how responsible am I as my “brother’s keeper”? Maybe this seems cut and dry to you, but please humor me in explaining to you my mental struggle. Where does my responsibility to take care of my friends and family end? Am I responsible for helping to manage their expectations when possible? Am I responsible for their thoughts toward me, their impression? Am I culpable for their actions? It sounds silly, but to the one always trying to cater to others, this is a legitimate line of questioning.
Responsible for yourself
First and foremost, we need to take full responsibility for ourselves, our thoughts, actions, words, reactions. When it comes to these areas, there can be no gray-space. We may not be able to change directly how we think or react, but we are more than capable of managing these parts of ourselves. If we screw up, the blame is squarely on our shoulders.
Identifying the parties responsible
What I’m learning is that being responsible doesn’t involve micromanaging those around me. Responsibility is helping them to be more responsible for themselves. Responsibility equips and empowers. Taking that too far only serves to exacerbate the problem. Taking responsibility too far handicaps.
The responsible way
By all means, love your friends and family. Love them deeply, fiercely. It’s this love that will compel you to do the best for them and nothing less. It’s out of this love that we recognize when our actions, reactions, may be hindering our loved ones. It’s out of this love that we stop trying to manage them in ways we’re only beginning to learn how to manage in ourselves. It’s out of this love that we leave behavior modification out of the equation and heart change to God. If need be, we point them toward God for a certain habit, not play god.
Sometimes the responsible reaction is to back off and let people take responsibility for themselves. I know I need to let this truth marinate in my heart. I know that in stepping back, but not shying away from offering help or counsel, I’m really enabling the other person to exercise self-care. In calling them equal and not placing myself above them in the relationship, you see, I’m actually loving them and ridding myself of the undue stress in the process.