Last week I shared my experience about learning to use our agency to take control of our lives. This week I would like to share some suggestions about allowing our loved ones to use their agency also – even when we think they aren’t doing things the “right way”…
Agency is the power we each have to decide a course of action for ourselves.
When it comes to agency and my loved ones, I’ve discovered that I feel different about allowing agency for my children than allowing agency for my husband. From their birth, we have shared increasing amounts of agency with our children, and that can be challenging to release more and more agency to them as they mature. With my husband, I have always related to him as an adult. Sometimes I wish he would do things my way, sometimes I even try to influence him to my way of thinking, but ultimately, I know that he gets to choose what he feels is best for him. Just like I get to choose what’s best for me.
When it comes to my kids and their use of agency, I have always felt there was so much at stake, especially with critical choices. I am the one who taught them, planned with them and dreamed of what I hoped for them. I am their mother and I always thought I knew what was best for them.
If someone you love leaves the church, how do you allow them their agency – even when you think you know better?
The key 🔑 is that you DON’T know how to live their lives any better than they do. We don’t need to respond to the urgent feelings inside of us that insist we must DO SOMETHING! It’s uncomfortable, but it’s part of the development we each need to go through. We need to learn to let go of the thoughts that others just can’t do their lives without us.
Here are a few suggestions that may help:
Accept their agency – Even when the things they are doing aren’t how we would do them, or even if we think they should or should not be doing something. We need to allow others to choose their path.
Respect others’ choices – Respect looks like not pointing out all their pitfalls, reminding them that we would do it differently, pointing out their failures, and 101 other ways that we could undermine them. We all learn to make choices by making them.
Let them reap what they sow – Don’t be too quick to bail others out of the consequences of their choices. Don’t stick around to clean up the mess, and don’t be too quick to open our wallets and pick up their shortfall. Don’t be available to “rescue” them until it works with our schedule. It’s hard, but it’s better for them to learn they have the power to make choices, and with those choices they also have the responsibility to accept the consequences in their lives.
Learn to love them without strings attached – Sometimes love is providing support by just “being there” and listening when a loved one has experienced a disappointment. Sometimes, love looks like just enjoying our time with them. Sometimes REAL love is setting a boundary where we don’t jump in to rescue them, or showing love by removing ourselves from a situation. Or we could just pray for them with all our hearts.
Asking for their forgiveness – Sometimes we make mistakes with our loved ones and we need to ask for forgiveness – and we also need to forgive ourselves. Especially when we realize as we are writing this email that we’ve been guilty RECENTLY of doing all of these things wrong… I admit, we aren’t always going to get this agency thing right. For most of us, it’s the first time we’ve faced some of these challenges, and we’re going to make mistakes. We just need to recognize this reality and keep trying and getting a little better.
Genuine whole-hearted love for others is always easier to talk about than to do. I hope the above thoughts provide you with some ideas that will help in your journey.
You may be looking for someone to talk with about your situation. It is hard to sort through the rush of thoughts and emotions of such a private matter. I know. Feel free to reply to this email or click this link to set up a time for us to chat. This costs you nothing but a few minutes and may provide some additional tools to help you get through a really tough time.