We have all seen people we love self destruct leading us to wonder how to rescue people who are making painfully bad choices.
After a few minutes on the treadmill, a back and forth with a foul-mouthed motivational guru, and an introduction to an angel called Ingrid, I think the answer has never been more clear.
A Strange City, A Small Gym, and a Lot of Tears
As I’m writing this I’m sitting in a hotel room in Syracuse, New York. It’s a town not far away from where I live and one that I’ve never been to.
After traveling for business last night I headed to the gym this morning to get a workout in and start the day. The gym wasn’t very big with with just a few pieces of equipment and a treadmill, but that was all I needed. After doing some simple lifting I hopped on the treadmill and got into the groove.
I wasn’t looking for a master class on how to rescue people, but I found one, and it was flooded by a waterfall of tears.
Abandonment, Pain, and Booze
I was listening to the audiobook Kick Ass by Mel Robbins where she sits down with a handful of people one on one to help them uncover the roadblocks in their lives that are stopping them from being who they are meant to be.
As I ran, I listened to Kyle, a man whose father left when he was in diapers, whose mother left after marrying someone new and whose grandmother who helped take care of him also eventually moved away. The pain of abandonment was immense and he turned to alcohol.
He gained weight, was alcoholic, and felt abandoned. Time and time again he broke down crying, the pain of the things that had been done to him overwhelming him, knowing his own responses were killing him.
He was recounting one night where he only saw a few possible routes his life would take: jail, death, or giving up the alcohol. Luckily, there was someone in his life that knew how to rescue people, and that’s exactly what she did.
A Phone Call, an Angel, and Fast Food
Kyle talked about Ingrid. Although they weren’t close they worked together, and she was the first person that came to mind in his hour of need.
As Kyle sat in his bed with a bottle of vodka on his nightstand knowing he needed help, he knew he could call her. He knew she would respond.
Ingrid had always been kind. She was never judgmental, but often concerned. She had talked to him before about his drinking, not with any condemnation, but only because she genuinely cared about him. As he sat there at 2:00 am, knowing he was destroying himself, he knew he could call her and she would get up, come over, and get him help.
And that’s exactly what she did. She showed up, knowing he was drunk and would need to be helped to the car. She asked if he needed anything or would like some fast food. She took him to get help. She saved his life.
Four Years, Care, and Showing Up
As he tells the story now, Kyle is four years sober. He still has things that he’s struggling with. He still has pain that’s unresolved. He still has challenges he has to face, but thanks to Ingrid, being drunk every night isn’t one of them.
Ingrid should give a master class on how to rescue people. It’s different than what most people think. There are definitely different situations that call for different approaches, but for most people it’s very simple:
- Don’t Judge: Judgement doesn’t help. It drives people away. Whatever pain caused them to choose poor options to deal with their pain becomes magnified with judgement. Too often we look at the destructive things people are doing and immediately start judging them. We forget the adage “there but for the grace of God go I”. We don’t know the background, the pain, and the challenges that brought people where they are. Instead, we should take a different approach.
- Care: Genuinely care about the wellbeing of the other person. Kyle and Ingrid weren’t close. There wasn’t something one was getting out of this. This was just simply one person caring for another and helping them because they had value (we all do). If you want to know how to rescue people that need help, you have to care about them well before they’re ready to change.
- Show Up: Not only did Ingrid show up when Kyle called, he knew she would. She had shown herself a reliable friend. She had proven that she valued him as a person. And when asked to show up she did.
If you want to know how to rescue people who are stuck and in need, don’t judge them for where they are. Care about them long before they’re ready to ask for help, and when they do ask for help, show up. This is the way we help transform lives. This is the way we make the world a better place. This is how we make life worth living.