Accepting What We Cannot Change

One of the most difficult pills we have to swallow, is to accept that there are some things we cannot change. For example, when we try so hard to help someone else, especially someone close to us, and that help goes ignored. Sometimes the solution is so easy for us to see we want to help others see it too. But, as the saying goes, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink”. We offer all the help we can and at some point it becomes up to them to act on and accept the help. And if they don’t, that is something we have to accept we cannot change and know that doing so is OK.

It is OK. At the end of the day, you tried. That doesn’t reflect poorly on you. The kind, helpful natures within each of us is a great thing. Part of what makes us human is the drive to want to help another person, especially someone close to us. We see them in a hard time, a predicament, and of course we want to help them through it. I spent most of my teenage years, and even into my early twenties, attempting to help my family open up and accept my brother’s mental illness. It was apparent to me what the problem was and I knew if unaddressed what the consequences would be. Even more crystal clear to me than the problem, was the solution to it. I approached them delicately many times over the years about it, and had thought out each conversation beforehand as well as plans for action. Time and time again, I tried. But every time my advice and plans went ignored and nothing changed over the years. At the time, I couldn’t understand why they were so reluctant to accept my help, so resistant to change. All I could see were the future consequences my brother’s untreated mental illness would have, and it made me angry. The resentment and anger I felt didn’t fade overnight. It stayed, and it grew each and every time I reached out to help with no resolution until eventually I stopped trying.  Much later, I realized how much of my time and energy I was expending not only to feel that resentment and anger, but at trying to lead that horse to water and force it to drink. It had made me bitter. I had to accept that I couldn’t help change what was going on, if no one wanted to change it. I couldn’t force them to address these issues, if they didn’t want to address them. This was a difficult pill to swallow, however I was much better off for it. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t still have fleeting moments of anger about the situation to this very day, because I do. But they are just that- fleeting. I let them come and then pass, instead of ruminating on it. I tell myself that the anger and resentment doesn’t serve me, and remember that despite the outcome I did my best in trying to help change the situation. I tell myself the simple truth that some things we just cannot change. That is all any of us can do in these situations. Try to help those you care about but recognize there may be a point where that helping hand will be rejected and they won’t change, and that is OK. Don’t beat yourself up about it and think that maybe you could have done something differently. These feelings don’t serve you, so let them pass through. Allow yourself to find acceptance and strength in knowing that despite our very best efforts, there are just some things we cannot change.    

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