You’re likely here because someone you know is struggling, and you want to know how to help someone going through a hard time. Have you ever considered that sometimes allowing people to go through hard times might be the most loving thing we can offer? It sounds counterintuitive, maybe even cruel, but when we look closer, we see that there can be immense value in experiencing difficult moments. We often hear about the dangers of overprotectiveness and how it can hinder personal growth and development. But what if we take this one step further? What if, in certain circumstances, the most compassionate thing we can do is to allow someone we love to face hardship? Let’s explore this controversial topic and see what insights we can uncover together.
A controversial way to help someone going through a hard time
I will cut straight to the chase here and say that this topic is controversial because it touches on several ethical and moral dilemmas. On one hand, some people argue that experiencing hardship is necessary for personal growth and character development and that shielding people from all suffering can prevent them from developing important life skills. On the other hand, others argue that intentionally allowing someone to suffer is inhumane and goes against the essence of compassion, empathy, and kindness. The controversy arises because there are valid arguments on both sides, and the answer may depend on individual circumstances and personal values.
I believe there is tremendous value in hardship and even suffering. It isn’t uncommon to hear stories about people who find the will to overcome inhumane circumstances (Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl) and become examples of courage and resilience in the world. I firmly believe that incredible lessons come from experiencing and overcoming hardships that simply can’t be taught in any other form.
If you know anything about me, this might come as a surprise since I am a suicide survivor and wanted to end my suffering at one point in my life. But if you stick with me and keep an open mind, I hope to explain my perspective well enough that you will understand why I believe this to be the best way I know how to help someone going through a hard time.
The Value of Hard Times
When I was at the ripe age of 20, I decided to get married. You could have told me a million times over that it was a bad idea. From his temper tantrums over a sandwich made with no mustard to his deep disrespect toward a woman’s freedom, there were enough signs of narcissism to make any normal girl run. Just not me. Nope. Instead, “I felt sorry for him” and felt like maybe I could help.
And as if that abuse wasn’t enough, I went on to procreate with him. I will save you all the details of how exhausting that relationship was and leave it at this; when I decided to leave him, he told me that he was going to make my life hell, and that was the only promise he has ever lived up to…and he lived up to it times 10.
I felt angry, sad, afraid, and alone. And there were even times that I felt like flying to another country, hiding away, and just giving up because of how emotionally exhausted I was.
However, now that I’m on the other side, when I look back, this experience was a serious catalyst for personal growth and character development. Having a child to protect gave me meaning and forced me to navigate foreign ways to protect and care for him. It forced me to become a better mom, so I read more, practiced self-control, and learned better communication. I found ways to advocate for myself and learned about what it meant to have boundaries and not tolerate abuse. I also learned how to let go of control. And I learned the value of perseverance and healthy relationships.
And while not everyone uses difficult times to motivate change and growth, I now realize I have all these qualities and values because I endured that trying situation when what I wanted to do was give up. No other circumstance was difficult or meaningful enough to make me want change-but hardship forced me to want something better for myself. So if you are wondering how to help someone going through a hard time, it might be as simple as simply letting them endure the hardship by honoring their ability to get through it.
How can this help someone going through a hard time?
When we face challenges, we are forced to adapt and find new ways to cope, which can lead to the development of new skills and strengths. Hard times also teach us resilience and perseverance, which can help us navigate future challenges with greater ease. Additionally, going through tough times can give us a sense of accomplishment and self-confidence from overcoming adversity.
To this day, I am so obsessed with good communication because my motto was, “if I learn how to communicate with impossible people, I can communicate with anyone.” and it has become my superpower. Therefore, I learned a skill set that I now teach others.
But my example isn’t the only one out there.
A person who has experienced poverty and financial struggle may develop a strong work ethic and learn to be resourceful, leading to greater success and financial stability in the future.
Someone who has battled addiction and overcome it may develop a deep sense of empathy and a desire to help others who are struggling with similar issues.
A person who has faced discrimination and bigotry may develop a strong sense of social justice and a commitment to fighting for equal rights for all.
Someone who has experienced a major setback or failure in their career may use that experience as a learning opportunity, gaining new skills and knowledge that allow them to thrive in their field.
A person who has faced a serious illness or injury may develop a greater appreciation for life and a renewed commitment to self-care and wellness.
There are limits to what we can endure.
It’s important to acknowledge that not all hard times are beneficial, and there are limits to how much suffering people should be expected to endure. As a suicide survivor, I feel it is my obligation to say this because what I endured up to the point of shooting myself was beyond my ability to cope.
This is most relevant for children who cannot remove themselves from trying situations or have experienced trauma, but it can also happen to adults who feel there is no way out.
While many challenges can lead to personal growth, others can be overwhelming and traumatic. So if you are wondering how to help someone going through a hard time, it’s essential to recognize when a situation is beyond a person’s ability to cope and provide them with the support and resources they need to overcome it because this is when suicide becomes a concern.
No one should be expected to endure excessive suffering or trauma, so prioritizing self-care and seeking help when necessary is crucial. This is why I was able to recognize a point in my marriage that was no longer benefiting me, and I was able to make the decision to leave, no matter what the consequence.
Ultimately, while difficult times can catalyze growth and development, it’s essential to balance this with recognizing that everyone has limits to how much they can endure. It’s important to respect those limits.
The Danger of Overprotectiveness
It is important to explain that allowing someone to experience difficult times differs from leaving someone high and dry when in need. When we are trying to figure out how to help someone going through a hard time, if what they need is something beyond our ability, we should offer to find help and seek out ways that we can offer support within our capacity.
That being said…
At the end of the day, it is the responsibility of each individual to prioritize their own self-care rather than expecting others to hold their hand through it. (I am speaking specifically of adults here).
When someone is in a state of suffering, there is often little we can do to get them out. That decision has to be made on their own.
When we trust others to navigate hard situations independently, they can benefit for several reasons.
- First, it can help build their confidence and self-esteem as they learn to rely on their own resources and problem-solving skills.
- Second, allowing people we love to navigate hard situations independently can help foster a sense of personal responsibility and accountability. When we are faced with difficult situations, it’s easy to rely on others to solve our problems for us. However, by taking ownership of our problems and working to solve them ourselves, we learn to be more proactive and take charge of our lives.
- Third, allowing people we love to navigate hard situations independently can help build resilience and adaptability. Life is full of challenges, and learning to navigate difficult situations is essential for personal growth and development. We learn to be more adaptable and better equipped to handle future difficulties by facing and overcoming challenges.
So when you’re wondering how to help someone going through a hard time, remember this: they don’t need to be rescued. They don’t need someone to pat them on the back and tell them they are doing good or that everything will be okay; they don’t need a motivational speech to make them feel better; they don’t need well-meaning platitudes like, “everything happens for a reason.” In fact, going through life seeking that kind of validation from others is the fastest way to live a life void of true happiness.
What People Actually Need
What we do need is empathy. We need to be seen; that’s most of the battle and what most people don’t offer.
Many of us are taught that our pain is the responsibility of others. We point our fingers at others and blame others for our unhappiness. We want to blame other people for our feelings. And we want to drown in our misery instead of acting to change it.
We would all be responsible for ourselves in a perfect world because any (and every) healthy relationship must be mutually beneficial. You don’t have anything to offer someone if you aren’t first taking care of yourself; that is nobody’s responsibility but yours.
The second you decide to seek validation from external sources is when you relinquish your power.
Of course, this doesn’t mean we should never support or assist people we love when they are going through hard times. Rather, it means that we should be mindful of the balance between supporting and empowering them to navigate challenges independently. By striking this balance, we can help our loved ones grow and develop while providing them the support and guidance they need to succeed.
It’s an act of love.
This is not about being heartless or uncaring but about showing genuine concern for the person’s long-term well-being.
It is about setting boundaries and consequences for actions that may harm oneself or others. It involves holding the person accountable for their actions while still showing empathy and support.
Allowing someone to navigate difficult times on their own shows that we care about the person and want what’s best for them, even if it means making difficult decisions or having difficult conversations. It’s not about punishing or shaming the person but rather about helping them understand the consequences of their actions and taking responsibility for their behavior.
In doing so, we help the person develop the skills and resilience they need to navigate difficult situations in the future. We also demonstrate that we believe in their ability to overcome challenges and make positive changes in their lives.
Now, I realize it can be tough to watch someone go through difficult times and not step in to fix everything. But sometimes, letting others navigate challenges on their own is the best thing we can do. It shows that we trust and believe in them, which is a great act of kindness.