Unsolicited Advice: It's Not Your Job to Save People From Themselves

The debate over vaccine mandates has brought up the endless debate about whether or not it’s okay to force people to do the “right” thing. It’s not just an endless debate, it’s an endlessly pointless debate.

The answer is NO. It’s not okay to force people to do what you think is the right thing. We do have laws that prosecute people who don’t do the right thing, like murdering or stealing. Forcing people to do the right thing will only ever make things worse…like communism levels of worse.

You have to accept that you can’t force people to make the right choices. You can cajole, incentivize, inspire, even help. But when push comes to shove, every person must be free to make their good choices and their bad choices. For one thing, it allows people to learn their own life lessons through trial, error, and consequences. For another, it prevents you from burning out. If you’ve ever been in a job or a position where you feel like you are constantly cleaning up the mess from the bad choices of others, you know what I mean.

The annoying thing about people is that they have their own minds and their own motivations. The annoying thing about our own selves is that there is a little piece of narcissism in all of us that lets us believe we know best, we know have the answers, and we have the ability to shift the direction of another human being’s life if we just push hard enough.

My father-in-law is a pastor and as a congregant in his church, I watched many broken and desperate people collapse at the alter each Sunday and beg for God’s forgiveness, repent, beg for help to change. I watched them weep as they swore off drugs, alcohol, sexual deviance, abusive behavior. Early on during those years it always moved me to tears. It brought me hope. It is a very intimate moment to share with another person, even in a room full of people, when they finally surrender their brokenness and recognize they cannot walk another step without God.

But at some point it became annoying…tiresome, even. Some people did manage to pull themselves together and find meaningful change for their lives. Most of them were repeat customers. I’d watch my father-in-law pick them up, embrace them, offer them food, sustenance, guidance, jobs, a roof over their heads. Over and over and over again. He’d offer them everything they could need to make a fresh start and yet so many of them just dropped right back into the terrible decision-making process that brought them to the altar in the first place. Sometimes it would make me mad. How can you be so weak? How can you be so stupid? How can you reject all this love, all this help?

After watching one man in particular who had fallen on that altar multiple times over the years, only to go back to lying and stealing and abuse, I asked my father-in-law one day, “How do you do it? How can you stand pouring so much into these same people over and over again? They never make good use of the help. They never listen to your sound advice, they never take responsibility for their decisions. They just take and take and never work to help themselves. Doesn’t that bother you?”

I’ll never forget what he said.

He said, “No. I never get tired. Because I know it’s not my job to save anyone. It is only my job to serve them. The Lord is the only one who saves.”

You can’t save anyone. You don’t have it in you. None of us do. The people who think they do are the ones who end up bitter and broken because they’ve done nothing but fail. You’ll always fail when your goal is to be a savior to someone. There is a Savior, but it’s not you. You’ll never fail if your goal is to be a servant, to be someone who expresses the love of the One Savior.

Don’t burn yourself out trying to fix someone else’s life. You can’t do it and it’s not your right to do it anyway. Ultimately, the decision has to be theirs. If you don’t grasp this, you will come to hate the very people you feel drawn to help. You’ll resent them, the way I had begun to resent the repeat offenders at my church. Stay in your lane.

Be a servant, not a savior.

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