Many people think the term “Live and let live” means to deal with problems as they come to you and stop worrying about what might happen in the future. To some it also means to mean to take life easy and have a good time doing it.
However the underlying meaning of this term is that if you want to improve your relationships with other people, you should respect the them enough to step back and let them decide for themselves how they wish to live their lives.
Walking the Line
There is a very fine line that we all have to walk when it comes to doing this.
When we cross it, we trap ourselves into toxic situations that can damage our relationships as well as our health.
The irony is that when we become with other people’s lives, we do so with the best of intentions, but we don’t realize that we are harming rather than helping.
Why It's Important to Know the Limits
While it's a good thing to "be there" for others, it is not good to become so involved in their lives that you begin to infiltrate them.
Doing this this makes people feel like they are being manipulated into making decisions they would not normally choose.
They may want your help, and they may need information, but they do not want you telling them what they should be doing or coercing them into doing it.
A woman may want to talk to you about problems in her marriage, but she does not want you to tell her
- she should get a divorce,
- you know a good lawyer and
- you will be happy to call him for her!
When you back her into this kind of corner, you demean her, and she resents you for doing it.
She doesn’t really want your advice.
She simply wants a shoulder to cry on so that she can clear her head and decide about what she wants to do about her situation.
So, instead of helping her (your original intention), you have created more problems for her!
The lesson here is that if you truly are going to help another individual, you need to be careful about how you go about doing so.
Offering assistance does not give you the right to give unwanted advice or intrude on the way that people choose to live.
Furthermore, if you go too far with this type of behavior, you can actually create a toxic environment that can damage you as well as the person you‘re trying to help.
A True Life Example
Here is a true story that is a perfect example of what I’m talking about.
A man's sister-in-law recently passed away. His brother lives in another town, and for the past few years, has called him several times each day for moral support and advice.
Since the man feels the need to help his brother, he allows the phone calls to continue and also travels hundreds of miles visit him at least once each month.
- he works long hours at a high stress job,
- is under terrible financial strain and
- both he and his wife have worsening health issues.
Clearly, he’s in no position to be helping anybody else, nor does he really have the time to do so.
Nonetheless, he feels he should help his brother.
However, by allowing himself to become so involved with the situation, his brothers feelings of despair, stress and fear eventually become his own.
He now has so many problems to deal with that he is taking anti-depressant medications just to get through each day.
In trying to live his own life as well as somebody else's, and he has created dangerous problems for himself.
The irony is that even after several years, his brother is still no better emotionally than he was in the beginning!
The Consequences of Involvement Can Be Serious
The man in the above story clearly does not realize that he has created a toxic situation for himself as well as his brother.
Unless he finds some way to bring an end to it, the situation will continue ad infinitum, or until his brother finds some other person who will “help” him.
The sad irony is that if the man ends his involvement, his brother will hate him and the relationship will be ruined.
The brother will feel that he has been demeaned, disrespected and then abandoned.
It’s an impossible situation that shows what can happen when you allow yourself to take on other people’s problems.
What to Do to Avoid Overstepping
To keep yourself from becoming involved in other people's situations, you should always ask yourself, "Is this my problem?"
- If it is, then you should take ownership of it and deal with it.
- If not, you should keep your distance mind your own business.
The best thing you can do is listen, pat the individual on the shoulder, tell him or her that you're sorry for their trouble and wish him or her good luck.
Dealing With Family Relationships Is Especially Tricky
People need to take great care when it comes to "butting in" to the lives of family members.
- Never assume that because you are related to someone you have the right to become involved in their personal business.
- You may think the people you love are heading for trouble, but it is not your place to step in and try to protect them from it.
- They're going to do what they like, and nothing you say will stop them.
Hard as it may be to accept, what other people do with their lives is none of your business!
The Consequences of Over Involvement Are Always the Same
Trying to manage the lives of others is futile and accomplishes nothing.
In the long run, doing so always creates problems and resentments.
This is why whenever anybody asks me for help or advice, I tread carefully because I know that the life I'm saving may be my own.
Someone once said about advice that “Fools don’t need it and wise men don’t heed it”.
It's a good line to remember because it will help you to live your life and let others live theirs and make everybody happier in the long run.
Questions & Answers
Question: How may I stop if I love someone too much?
Answer: Understand that loving someone means accepting them for who they are and allowing them to make their own decisions. It does not mean trying to control their behavior, even when you can see that they might be making bad choices. Each person has the right to live his life as he sees fit. When you interfere, you take this right away from him.
Question: If you love someone, how can you give them their own space?
Answer: Loving is not the same as smothering. If you love someone enough, you should trust them enough to let them spend time with their friends or to pursue their own hobbies. If you take a handful of sand and hold it too tightly, it sifts through your fingers. If you hold it loosely, it remains.
Sondra Rochelle (author) from USA on August 26, 2016:
denise.w.anderson Yep. We've all been there, but there comes a time when you have to face reality. Sometimes doing so makes you feel awful, but it's really the best choice. Nice to see you again!
Denise W Anderson from Bismarck, North Dakota on August 26, 2016:
This is great advice! I have been there and done that, getting so involved with trying to help another that I loose my own sense of self. Now, I am much more careful, and weigh my options before getting involved!