Compromising Yourself Will Not Help Another

Forks and plates clattered against tables, and conversations filled the cafeteria. In the middle of this bustling scene, my attention was turned to a young woman. She had mentioned that she was in a bad relationship, which I could see was bringing her deep emotional harm. Horrified, I encouraged her to get help and leave the relationship.

“But Jesus hung out with sinners,” she insisted, adding that she needed to “be Jesus” to this guy and help him get better. And, I hate to say, I failed to appropriately respond to this argument and help her leave the relationship. Jesus did walk among sinners. And yes, we need to be Christ to others—so how could this woman’s relationship be a bad thing? After all, she loved her boyfriend. And shouldn’t she help him turn around his life?

I felt incredibly sad for this woman. Bad relationships and abuse are full of many layers of pressures and injuries that make leaving difficult. But several years after this incident, her words still stick with me. This woman claimed that she could be a hero, a savior, for this man. That’s noble. But, to this woman—and to all men and women who’ve thought this at any point—I say: Compromising yourself will not help another.

Yes, we need to bring joy, life, and light into the darkness that others experience. Countless people want to bring others into a better, more chaste, loving life. But, sometimes, with the best of intentions, we can lose sight of our own safety. Sometimes, our desire to reach out means frequenting wild parties where one person alone is trying to cast a shining light of hope while surrounded—physically and mentally—by a harmful environment. Other times, it involves dating a man or woman who doesn’t respect you. It also can include encouraging others in this mentality, through our support of certain books or movies.

It’s good to help others find true love and joy. But if we put ourselves into situations where we can be seriously hurt physically, mentally, or emotionally, then we aren’t helping others or ourselves. We providing opportunities for others to persist in certain behavior, and in the process, we are being severely harmed. Instead of rushing into every situation headlong, we need to recognize our weaknesses. Having the humility to be honest with ourselves is tough, and involves asking difficult questions. If I go to that party, will my chastity be compromised? If she doesn’t respect me in this relationship, will that escalate into abuse?

Years ago, a friend of mine was trying to heal from living a harmful lifestyle. He needed a friend, and someone to hold him accountable—but in order to truly be a loving friend and help him, I had to recognize that I couldn’t fix his problems. He had to take the initiative and seek help. I learned that prayer, setting up emotional & physical boundaries and distance, accountability from people outside the situation, and actively helping another find outside aid are all important. Above all, I learned what St. John Paul II once said: “Do not be afraid when love requires sacrifice.” In any kind of relationship with other people, we must keep the other person’s ultimate good in the forefront of our minds. If there is a relationship where either of the people is not respected and treated as a person to be loved selflessly, then we need to be willing to sacrifice in order to bring help and safety to ourselves and others. Every person needs love. True, sacrificial, love. We need to reach out to others and show them this love—but we need to do this in safe, selfless, compassionate ways.
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Assisi-18-868x1024AnneMarie Miller studies Theology and English at Franciscan University of Steubenville. She has a passion for the Catholic Faith, chastity, St. Francis of Assisi, and frolicking around barefoot. In August 2013, she was blessed to marry her incredible husband, and the two of them enjoy the epic adventures of married college life. When she’s not doing homework, housework, cooking, or playing chess, AnneMarie reflects on life’s beauty and random observations on her blog, Sacrifice of Love (http://marianninja.blogspot.com).

Image via FlickrCC 2.0

9 Comments

  1. Hi, AnneMarie!
    I agree with your blog! My question is what would you tell that girl to do (besides breaking up and settig boundaries) that is a more effective and safe way to do what she intended to do, which was to help her boyfriend understand God’s love?

    By Michelle | 2 years ago Reply
    • Hi, Michelle!
      I think this is difficult, because oftentimes, many people (myself included) think that we need to be the heroes who help a person experience God’s love in a radical way. We do need to show God’s love to others, but we need to ensure our own safety. If a woman is in a dangerous relationship, breaking up and setting boundaries is awesome, for it is a way for her to show that she recognizes her worth and dignity, and expects a man to do the same. This woman should definitely pray for the man, but also try to move on with her life. By way of example, I have a story: I have a good friend who once stayed in a bad relationship because she wanted to show a man God’s love. Even after they broke up, she still kept up some communication because she felt like she could make him understand God’s love. But she found that she couldn’t force him to understand the love of God, and she was only being dragged down by him, so she broke off all communication. This woman is full of love and joy, and has moved on with her life. Hopefully, somehow, the man she was with will turn his life around, but this woman discovered that she couldn’t let herself being abused trying to fix him. In my own life, I’ve found that handling myself with confidence, dignity, and respect, while trying to love all people I meet, has spoken volumes to others about God’s love. Does any of this help answer your question?

      By AnneMarie Miller | 2 years ago Reply
      • Great article! Annemarie can I add… I think it is important to not try to be the other person’s savior, because you can end up comprising yourself. Unfortunately, when a friend is in that situation, they may put a defense up and not listen to the thought of breaking up and boundaries. It may be a good idea to ask them to reflect on the relationship as a whole. The friend can reflect in a journal her story, but try to be truly honest with herself. Ask herself if she has seen fruit in the relationship or just repeated habits. Also, ask herself how is she feeling…am I exhausted? worry? whom are my worries for? Sometimes we pick up crosses that God never really gave us to bear. Last thought, a good reflection could be … caretaking codependency.

        By Mercy | 2 years ago Reply
  2. I think people get confused between how it is prudential to act in a friendship versus in a relationship. You should always be there for friends and help them turn around their lives, even help acquaintances that you don’t know well. The purpose of dating, on the other hand, is to discern marriage. Dating someone who has those kinds of problems is a terrible idea because either they don’t have their act together or their values aren’t the same as yours. Either way, they’d make a terrible spouse. It’s okay to be friends with someone without being in a romantic relationship with them. I think too many people rush into relationships without building a strong friendship first (and jump into bed) and so they end up feeling “in love” with someone who is not right for them. They feel stuck or obligated to stay in a bad relationship when they need to get out as soon as possible, and of course the longer they stay the worse it gets.

    By Stephanie | 2 years ago Reply
    • Stephanie, I think you make an important distinction with friendship and dating relationship. It is VERY good to “be there” for friends and help them turn around their lives. Too many times, though, I’ve seen people compromise themselves–even in non-dating friendships–despite the fact that they had originally wanted to help their friend(s) out. Overall, even if you are not dating a person, I think it is worthwhile to really ask yourself some serious questions about the situation, because we all have weaknesses and can fall. Even the strongest of people, when they get immersed in different situations, can quickly become vulnerable and in danger, so it is important to be brutality honest with yourself–with any relationship–about how yourself or others are being affected.

      By AnneMarie Miller | 2 years ago Reply
  3. I saw this thread on a friend’s social media page…. the truth is i made a lot of sacrifices for my spouse and had faith in him. We fell in love, got pregnant, then agreed to get married and responsibly raise our child. The thing is, we are complete opposites when it comes to values, religion, politics, and finances, but the one common ground we have is wanting what’s best for our child. Whether that means being together or not i have not quite figured out…

    By veronica | 2 years ago Reply
  4. Nice article. Jesus hung out with the lost, but the Bible also says “light doesn’t walk with darkness”. It is hard to know in which situation to stay close and when to keep the distance. When someone is in love,he/she tries to find reasons to stay close. It is true, we can help each other when we are friends, but not when we re romantically involved. I think we need to let the other person grow, settle things by talking to his/her friends. That is the right thing to do. I know it is hard, but we should only start a relationship with someone, who is spiritually mature.

    By Tunde Dioszegi | 2 years ago Reply
  5. I believe people willing to change their dark life to light who come to Jesus, not the reverse…There is a desire to encounter God and Jesus opens this door with compassion …His compassion is from God’s law and the desire of the person to change is way. Jesus let the young rich man go…Does He cry I want to save him no..He felt sorry but don’t get overwhelmed by the rich man’s choice. We need to stop thinking Jesus preached and loved without Law.

    By Lumina | 2 years ago Reply
  6. Someone once commented to me that yes, Jesus hung out with the sinners.
    But the reason He hung out with sinners was not because He forced Himself into their lives (and even Zacchaeus was positively desperate to encounter Him when Jesus invited Himself to Zacchaeus’ home). His goodness and holiness drew them in, not in a cheesy way, but in a life-changing way. They met Him, saw who He was, and wanted to conform their lives to HIS.
    People say Jesus hung out with sinners, but I think it’s just as accurate to say that the “really bad sinners” hung out with Jesus. He universally extended Himself to all and asked that THEY accompany HIM.

    By Becca | 2 years ago Reply

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