Archive for February 9th, 2006

February 9, 2006

Problems usually become larger problems when they are ignored…

by Rod Smith

“My mother left me some valuable furniture and my husband wants to sell it to pay his debts. I really don’t want him to do this. What can I do?”

“My boyfriend says he wants to marry me but he still wants to see other girls for a while. I have put up with this for two years and it never changes. Please help.”

“My sister is taking my mother for a ride. She doesn’t work and she doesn’t pay rent and she gets very cross if I say anything. Please help.”

I have juxtaposed these questions to illustrate that none of these situations happened to readers overnight. Each dilemma developed gradually. The husband already had no regard for his wife, or her belongings, long before furniture entered the picture. The woman who is willing to share a man with other women has already compromised so much and the man has little to lose if she leaves him. The dead-beat sister has been tolerated for so long she has no reason to alter her behavior. Big problems usually begin as smaller issues. The smaller issues should be addressed before they become overwhelming. Nothing ignored, when it comes to relationships, will disappear. What is ignored will only grow in power.

February 9, 2006

You could have said something to make them feel better…

by Rod Smith

In your response to the young man who can’t find an engineering job (You and Me, February 7, 2006) I see almost no sympathy on your part. Things are tough. A lot of people are jobless. Could you have said something to make this parent and young man feel just a little better?

Of course I could have and my identification with the dilemma would only serve to entrench the “victim feelings” in both parent and son. Neither empathy nor sympathy will get a young man an engineering job or a job of any kind.

Times are tough for many people and jobs are not easy to find. Yet, at the same time, many people are gainfully and wonderfully employed. So, if some are, and some are not, I’d suggest this young man do all he can to switch sides! Easy? Of course not! Life is tough. Feeling sorry for someone just makes life even tougher.

Do not be fooled by the power of empathy, for it is often quite useless, and avoid the debilitating virus of sympathy. Feeling for, or feeling with, someone (empathy) or feeling pity for someone (sympathy) might lead to warm feelings, but warm feelings, in themselves, are hardly likely to get an engineer a job.