what we are not owed

Posted: February 8, 2016 in Uncategorized


go then and make your choice

exercise your right to fail

as i stand on the sidelines

feeling like a fool for pouring

my everything

into the success that you reject


most bitter in my mouth

is the taste of this certain understanding

you don’t owe me

what i want for you


I wrote that poem back in 2005, amidst struggling to rescue an addict who for sure wanted to be loved, but wasn’t really interested in being rescued – addiction was his comfortable place, and none of the life I pointed to held much interest or allure.  I wasn’t ready to see his unwillingness most of the time, because I could so clearly see his potential, hiding there in the rubble of his poor choices.

I was wrestling my own demon of codependence – my need to save him was as much or more about me and my need to be a hero as it was about him.  It held elements of selflessness and service, but was too mixed up with selfishness and manipulation to be as “nice” as people liked to say I was.

I’ve returned to the closing lines of that poem many times since then – a precept that can be slippery.  Others don’t owe us what we want for them.  The fact that we can see someone’s potential doesn’t mean they owe us living up to it.  I have come to understand that when I invest heavily in someone, it is best when that’s a gift I’m actually giving to GOD, not so much to them.  Generally, people who need help – and especially addicts – don’t need the onus of “letting you down” when they struggle; a history of disappointing others is part of the crushing load that helps keep many an addict stuck in a cycle of guilt and pain.

When I give my help with an open hand, offering it to God but not attaching conditions for the one being helped, it removes or at least greatly reduces my temptation to take it personally when they stumble or when they can’t or just flat don’t want to come to freedom.  For me, giving with an open hand has to be done intentionally – when it’s not, sooner or later I default to attaching strings to my gifts, and shortly thereafter I’m resentful.  Resentments are very helpful in pointing to where I’m not giving freely – where I’m starting to make it about me, me, me, the default center of my universe when I live on automatic pilot.

Others don’t owe us what we want for them.  They owe their best life to themselves.  They owe living up to their full potential to God.  But others don’t owe us what we want for them.  When we remember that, we can choose to give with an open hand, or to step back and let them work it out, still not needing to take their choices personally.  It’s a way of peace.

This one’s for the folks like me, who need to be regularly reminded of that particular path to peace.  Whoever needed it:  I’m praying for you.  Pray for me too, eh?

  1. Jaclyn says:

    I needed that thank you!’n

    Sent from my iPhone


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