Archive for February 12th, 2006

February 12, 2006

What’s impossible / What’s possible – when it comes to helping others…

by Rod Smith


There are some things a person simply cannot do for or to another person, no matter how much commitment there is, how noble the goals are, how much effort or determination is involved, or how significant the needs might be. This is true even when people are in love. In fact, it is when people are in love that they are inclined to most believe in their power to change and influence another person.

No person can make another person become healthier, any more than someone is able to breathe for another. This does not mean that two people cannot work toward their individual health together. It means that one person cannot make another person grow.

As far as other people’s relationships are concerned, it is impossible to keep people apart who want to be together and keep together, those who want to be apart. Working toward any of these goals is likely to have the opposite effect. People feel much closer to each other when their relationship is threatened. People tend to resist relationships that are coerced by others.

It is impossible to make another person:

1. Be happy or fulfilled, angry, change, succeed or fail.
2. Love you, want you, need you, miss you, be glad to see you.
3. Trust you.
4. Love, want, need, miss or be glad to see someone else.
5. See, feel or think in a certain manner for an enduring period. (Most people are willing to “sell out” their minds, ideas for romance, but this does not usually last for very long.)
6. See the light, or get some sense into their lives.
7. Lose or gain weight, save or spend money, want or not want sex.
8. Use or stop using drugs, alcohol and cigarettes or bad language.


Below are the things that are helpful and possible to do for our family and friends:

1. It is possible and helpful to care about others. On the other hand, caring for or on behalf of others is not very productive in the long term.
2. It is possible to be responsible to others. On the other hand, being responsible for others is not usually helpful. Life works better when each person learns to be responsible for him or herself.
3. Sharing each other’s day-to-day burdens (helping each other out with problems that come our way) is helpful. On the other hand, attempting to remove the natural responsibilities every person has to face is not usually helpful.
4. Being present and non-anxious (available, focused, and attentive without being preoccupied with our own concerns) and listening to each other is both helpful and possible.
5. It is possible to pray for others, encourage others and be supportive to others all without meddling in their lives.

Copyright, Rod E. Smith, MSMFT, 1998