Tag Archives: saving people

Saving People From Themselves

The short answer is that it can’t be done. People only change when they want to change, and there’s not much scope to save people who do not want to be saved or who do not want to do the work or make the changes that would sort them out. Also, this stuff is subjective, and one person’s considered life choice can be another person’s hell. Like most creators I’ve had my rounds with people who thought I should be sensible and get a ‘proper job’. I undertake not to have anyone ‘save’ me from my own preferences and life choices.

If you are the kind of person who cares, it can be all too easy to get into a situation where you are protecting someone from the consequences of their own actions. I think a lot of abuse victims end up protecting their abuser in this kind of way – it can simply come from a desire for that person to be a better person than they are, but trying to make it so doesn’t fix things. You can end up doing vast amounts of extra work to try and offset what should have been the consequences of their actions and you may feel you need to do that to stay safe. Sooner or later it becomes impossible to protect an abuser from the consequences of what they do. Or to protect someone from the consequences of their laziness, lack of care or other shortcomings.

What’s even more problematic is when you are set up by the person to feel obliged to save them from themselves. It can feel powerful at first, imagining you are the hero they need, that you are the one who can break them out of toxic behaviour, and that you can save them. All too often what happens is you become the person whose fault it is that they are as they are, and they continue unchanged. It’s good to ask for help when dealing with life issues, but if someone is making you responsible for their problems, it is a serious red flag and the best option is to get as far away from it as you can.

We can and should support each other. We can cheerlead and encourage people when they try to make changes. We can share stories of our own struggles and solutions. We can cheer the victories and help people not be defeated by setbacks. But at the same time, there are limits. You can’t pull a person out of a burning building if they keep running back in. You can throw a person a lifeline, but they have to be willing to grab it and hold on. You can wait for a person, you can give them options, but you can’t do the work for them.