Do you know someone who acts in a way that you just can’t understand? Is there a person in your life who seems to do and say things which bring more harm to themselves than good? Have you repeatedly tried to help and guide them, yet they never change their ways, and worse, they don’t even seem to realize the error of their ways? How can you help them?
The answer can be found, like most things in life, by studying those around us. It quickly becomes apparent that some people really never do change their ways, even if what they are doing hurts them. And there are others who wake up and suddenly see themselves from a new perspective, and set about changing the course of their life.
One other very important observation should be noted. Change always comes from within a person; nobody wants change forced on them. We usually resist those who try to change us.
But when conditions are right, and the moment is right, something almost magical sometimes happens which jolts a person into a new perspective. Something happens to them, yet the change always comes from within.
I once saw a documentary about a woman who was an alcoholic. Every night, after work, she would get drunk and was unable to go a day without alcohol. She had been doing so for decades and her friends and family were deeply worried.
The woman had gone to support groups and to speak with counselors many times. Her family had attempted multiple interventions. They brought in a doctor to educate her about the damage she was doing to her body and mind. Her family and friends repeatedly pleaded with her to get her drinking under control, but to no avail. She continued down her destructive path. Nothing, it seemed, could wake her up.
Then, one day, she was at a restaurant with some business clients. Somehow the conversation turned to drinking and one of the clients proudly declared that he used to be an alcoholic and had quit. The woman’s ears perked up and she looked him over carefully. She couldn’t imagine that this man had been an alcoholic. He was strong, healthy and moved with vigor and was full of life.
“You were an alcoholic?” she asked him in disbelief.
“Yep,” he replied leaning forward with a cocky confidence as he pulled out a photograph and showed it to her. “This was me a few years ago when I was drinking,” he said. Her jaw dropped as she gazed at the slothful-looking, dreary shadow of a man in the photo. She looked up at him now in awe. He smiled and said, “And look at me now!”
In that moment, like the smashing of a ton of bricks, the woman woke up, and realized what she was doing to herself. She finally saw the error of her ways and how her actions were hurting her. In an instant, her destructive habit had vanished. All the counselors, support groups and pleading from her family had accomplished nothing. Yet this moment somehow got through to her.
“Why,” the interviewer in the documentary asked her, “did that experience finally wake you up? Why did seeing that man, that recovered alcoholic, finally make you quit drinking?”
“Well,” she paused and thought for a moment, “I guess he just showed me what I could be like if I quit. I had heard all of the arguments for quitting drinking, but he demonstrated it to me as clear as day.”
The world needs demonstrating more than it needs teaching.
If you want to help someone you love find happiness or make a change in their life, demonstrate to them how to make that change. Find a way to show it to them.
Instruction still has its place and we should freely offer our advice to someone who seeks it. But going around trying to help someone who is not asking for it will have no impact. Perhaps they may even rebel and do the exact opposite.
If someone seeks out your help, give your guidance freely and sincerely. Offer it when it appears as if someone will be receptive. However, if you have gotten nowhere with repeated attempts to help a person, perhaps it’s time to consider demonstrating to them.
Find ways to show them how to make the change. Bring about situations where they will see the benefits of making this change. Let them see, not just hear, your advice.
You may never get through to them, because ultimately change comes from within. But your chances are greater if you show them, rather than tell them, how they can change and why they should do so.