Sometimes, we have to let go not because we have run out of love, not because a relationship has run its course, not because we have not tried to stretch the limits of our compassion, not because we are happy to walk away, but because at the end of the day, we can only hold so much space for someone who doesn’t want to change.
The choice doesn’t become whether or not we will walk with them as they heal, but whether or not they want to heal at all.
The truth is that people generally do whatever it is they deeply desire, whether it’s right or wrong or makes sense or doesn’t. Someone who does not want to change never will, and someone who wants nothing but to change absolutely will. It’s not a matter of whether they’re able, but whether they want it.
Desire doesn’t make it easy, or simple.
It just makes it possible.
Sometimes, you find love only to discover you have been meeting someone’s needs without them making a commitment. Sometimes, you find friendship only to discover that the other person has no intention to grow together, but stay right as you are. Sometimes, your kindness bleeds out into enabling, and your love prevents you from seeing it that way.
You are not a bad person for setting boundaries.
You are not unloving because you eventually have to walk away.
It doesn’t mean you can’t help.
It doesn’t mean you can’t be loving.
It doesn’t mean you won’t have compassion.
It only means that you begin to recognize you cannot continue to hold space and offer up your time and energy and resources to someone who has no intention of changing. You’re not helping them, you’re becoming a piece of the puzzle of their lives, and you will stay there until you decide otherwise.
This can be deceptive because they’ll say all the right things. Not because they are trying to manipulate you, but because at a certain level, they believe it. They know you’re right, they know they need help, and they know they want to do better.
But that desire is easily eclipsed by other, seedier ones.
That intention is pushed aside once you’re no longer with them.
You hear them tell you, again and again, how they want to change. You watch them express so much love for you and you believe it will be different this time. You know that they are taking steps in the right direction and you want, more than anything, to believe that this is truly the breakthrough moment.
It’s great to hold hope, but it’s important to stay clear.
Words without action are empty promises.
Promises without follow-through are mistruths in disguise.
A person who actually has no intention of changing is not a person you can continue to pour your energy and your life into, because at a certain point, you have to decide what you’re going to allow.
You can only hold so much space for someone who doesn’t want to change.
You can only do much to help them if they do not want to help themselves.
You can only sacrifice so much before you’re also offering up the quality of your own life.
There is nothing more beautiful, or important, than having empathy and being present and showing up for the people who need it most.
But you cannot spend your entire life trying to clean up someone else’s mess when they have no intention of stopping the behavior that makes it in the first place. These people are not evil, they are just simply too enmeshed in their own fear, their own lack of worth, their own micro-dramas, their own social contracts, their own beliefs and preferences and ideas about the world and who they will be in it.
You cannot sit idly by and nod while someone slowly self-destructs.
You cannot compromise your own sanctity of mind for someone else’s unwillingness to salvage theirs.
You cannot give up your entire life to people who don’t want to vent about their problems, but continue to give them life; for people who don’t want to exit destructive relationships, but find justifications to stay in them; for people who know they need to get clean but still want friends that reinforce their habits.
We all need grace and time while we’re grappling with big problems for which there are no easy and straightforward answers. But please remember that you are not a savior. You are battling your own demons, you are scaling your own mountains, you are still healing, and you deserve support, too.
You cannot fix everything about someone just because you’re a few steps ahead, and believing this will only fuel your regression in life.
The decision to change is theirs.
The decision to stay is yours.