If I would have tried harder...

“If I would have only tried harder, I could have prevented this!”

Have you ever uttered those words to yourself?

I have. Many times.

I told myself this when our family business failed, when I was told the baby in my womb was sick, when I didn't reach a goal, and when my marriage fell apart.

I don't know about you, but I am pretty hard on myself. If my child acts up in public, I think I should be better parent. If I don't reach a goal, I criticize myself for taking a day off to take care of myself and to spend time with my girls. And when my marriage fell apart, I thought, “If I had only been a better wife this wouldn't have happened.”

Can you relate?

Have you ever tried to take the blame for someone else's poor decisions? Why do you and I do this?

There is one simple answer…because it comforts us. Let me explain.

Why is it comforting to believe that if you would have tried harder things would have gone better?

This is simply a matter of control. If you are part of the problem, then you can be a part of the solution.

Believing that if you had been a better wife, then you could have prevented your spouse from making the same decisions…

Believing that if you were a better parent, then your grown child wouldn't be making this same life choices she is making…

Believing that if you would have kept your mouth shut, then the abuse wouldn't have happened…

These are all struggles women just like you are sharing with me on a regular basis. But, why?

Our hearts and minds want to make logical sense of illogical situations. Taking the blame for someone else's poor decisions can help us do that…but it isn't healthy.

Betrayal in marriage. Abuse. Watching grown children make difficult choices.

These are all illogical situations. And when you can't make sense of the situation you feel out of control. So in an effort to regain control…you blame yourself.

Again, if you are part of the problem, then you can be a part of the solution.

This isn't all bad. Considering how your actions contributed to the outcome can help you find unhealthy behaviors that you need to change. You might discover that you really could communicate your needs in a better way.  You might discover patterns of behavior in relationships that you could improve. AND!!! You might discover that you did nothing to deserve this. 

Self-reflection is a good thing!

The truth is, sometimes loved ones make choices that leave us feeling heartbroken and in pain.

It's difficult to understand how someone we love so much could make such poor choices…so you might try to blame yourself in an effort to make sense of the madness.  However, when you take all of the blame on yourself, you aren't allowing the other person to take responsibility for his or her actions. And without the other person owning his or her part, resolution is very difficult.

And let's be honest, if you are like me, resolution is what you long for the most!

You lie in bed at night wishing you could go back to the way things used to be, wishing your heart could be whole again, wishing he or she would come back and apologize for his or her behavior, and then you could move on as if nothing happened. You pray every night that tomorrow you will wake up and this nightmare will be over.

But often this doesn't happen…you don't wake up from the nightmare, no apology is offered, and your heart remains shattered. So what then?

How do you move forward without knowing how it will end. Without knowing if…

…your efforts pay off?
…things improve?
…you be happy again?
…he or she make better choices from now on?

Fear of the unknown is stressful, and it can make us feel as if we are on a roller coaster that is spinning out of control. So in an effort to maintain your sanity, you might work harder at controlling things around you. You might try controlling everything from your own emotions to someone else's actions.

You might think,

…if I can just keep quiet about my own feelings and needs and focus on his happiness, then he'll choose me.

…if I show my child grace this time and don't address the behavior, then she'll know I love her and make better choices.

…if I have access to every email account and social media account, then he won't talk to her anymore.

…if I take away every form of temptation, then the desire will go away.

…if I take more responsibility off of his plate, then he won't lose his temper.

But the truth is, controlling other's actions isn't healthy. And it can lead to you being obsessed with the one who has hurt you. Rather than taking positive action to meet your own needs, your days are consumed with making sure your loved one's needs are met….believing that if his or her needs are met, then he or she will love you. This means you have decided that your self-worth and your happiness are dependent on your loved one making healthy choices.

You might be asking yourself, “What are my other options, Faith? Trusting him didn't work. Letting my child have freedom didn't work. Giving my spouse another chance didn't work. Attempting to control his stress load didn't work.”

I get it. It is heartbreaking to extend grace to someone only to have it misused or abused.

It is maddening to give your trust to someone and have them hand it back shattered into a million pieces. Everyday women email me sharing their own stories, telling me they feel like “used rags” because of someone else's behavior.

So what do you do?

If you really long for resolution. If you really want to find peace. If you really want to experience healing, then you must do this one thing…

You must remove your self-worth from his or her decisions.

You must remove the idea that your success as a parent, friend, or spouse is tied to someone else's choices.

You continue to own your mistakes. You make amends for your part of the story, but you do not take responsibility for other people's actions.

When you begin to show up differently in your relationship, things will change. When you stop trying to control the outcome, when you take the sole focus off of your loved one's behavior and begin to meet your own needs in a healthy way, you might see one of two things happen.

  1. You might find that the other person continues to make poor choices. Although, this is heartbreaking, this allows you to make decisions based on the truth of the situation rather than the hopes you have for the outcome.
  2. You might find that when you allow your loved one the freedom to choose for himself, he chooses to make healthy choices. And you both win. This is the outcome you and I pray for.

But either way, you have removed your self-worth from someone else's decisions. So if the second result happens and your loved one begins making healthy choices, you can now experience a healthy relationship where each person owns his or her actions.

I think this is best demonstrated in God's love for us. God loves you so much, that He sent His only son to die for you. WHY? Because God longs for an intimate relationship with you. Without payment for your mistakes, He couldn't have that relationship. So He sacrificed His own Son to provide a bridge from your heart to His.

If you and I are honest, we often take advantage of God's grace. We mess-up everyday. Yet, God doesn't manipulate us, control us or force us to “be good.” Instead, He leaves that choice up to you and me. I can't imagine the way His heart breaks when He sees us making poor choices in our lives, knowing the love, the peace, and the abundant life we are missing out on by our choices. And yet, He continues to love us and continues to give us the opportunity to make healthy or unhealthy choices.

I think you'd agree that God isn't a failure because you and I sin. And same is true of you, you are not a failure because someone you love is making poor choices. I am praying for you, that God will show you healthy ways to take positive action to get your needs met. I pray that God will give you the freedom to separate your worth from your loved one's decisions. And I pray that you will continue to seek an intimate relationship with the God of the Universe who created You in His image.

In an effort to help you let go of this lie, I have created a handout for you that will allow you to separate your actions from your loved ones actions. You can request your free copy here: My Choices

As always, if you need further support you can always email me at faith@speakinginfaith.com.

Embracing My Story,

Faith

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