From Rescuing to Resentment

“He was so angry at me you would have thought I had tried to help him.” Harry Stack Sullivan, M.D.

Look, I’ve certainly done my share of rescuing men, women, and a variety of small and large animals. The animals were all very grateful. But rescuing people is not a good idea. I have one friend recently who I gave a home, career, and money and she won’t speak to me after six years of what I thought was deep friendship.

When I was much younger, I tried to rescue my family from the emotional and physical abuse we all received. That didn’t go so well either. It took me well into my late thirties before I finally got it that no one in my family wanted to be preached to and be in my congregation and likewise none of them signed up to be my students.

“Okay,” you say, “but why are people that we try to rescue so angry at us?”

When we rescue and ride in on our milky-white stallions and our not-so-shiny armor we are explicitly and implicitly implying they are not competent to handle situations or people. It appears to the “rescuee” that we are more intelligent, wise, and that they need us because they lack the internal resources to handle their own lives.

Rescuing adults emotionally, financially, spiritually, physically, and intellectually is very close to “care-taking.”

There are huge differences between “care-taking” and “care-giving.”

“Care-taking” – “I don’t really want to go home for Christmas, but it is my duty or obligation.” “What would people think if I didn’t quit my job and take care of my ailing father?” “What if I refused to bake cookies for the first-grade class?”

“Care-taking,” unless you’re being paid or otherwise reimbursed for your efforts, more often than not leaves us drained, exhausted, and takes most of our energy, and guess what? Resentment is felt by both the one who receives “care-taking” and the one giving it.

Now, “care-giving” is a whole different ballgame. “Care-giving” comes out of compassion, generosity, and love. “Care-giving” leaves us energized; we feel good about ourselves. The one we care for ends up feeling respected, with their dignity intact and usually very grateful. There is no resentment on anyone’s part. When we care for the people we love, we do so with our boundaries and limits and health.

“Care-taking” says, “Listen to me; I know best.” “Care-giving” says, “Take my hand, we can get through this together.”

So, who do you “care-take” or try to rescue and who do you “care-for?”