Rescuer No More
I wanted to write to you today about the phenomenon of rescue where relationships are concerned. I attended a Trauma Informed Care class over the weekend and this subject came up at multiple points during that class. Rescuing plays as role in co-dependency and people-pleasing as I understand them. Many times, empathetic, caring people are rescuers. I was a rescuer in my last marriage – a rescue that didn’t work. Rescuers aren’t bad people, I was not and am not a bad person. They love the people they rescue. I loved my late husband. They are misled about what their role should be in a relationship.
First things first. What is a rescuer? A rescuer is someone who feels responsible for someone else and wants to take them out of a situation. They may feel responsible because they have wronged them in some way. They may feel responsible because they believe they can fix them by loving them. The rescuer may also believe if they take the person out of the situation, they will change. Rescuers tend to excuse or overlook destructive behavior in the other person and will keep “rescuing” them from the consequences of their poor choices (e.g. pay their bills, bail them out of jail, provide them alcohol or drugs). Rescuers hold the other person up emotionally, physically, spiritually and mentally. Rescuers tend to be people who need to be needed and many times, even though they love the person they have rescued, that person is a bit of a “project” for them – someone that needs them and someone they need to fix. Do you see the problem with this type of relationship? You will have one exhausted person doing all the rescuing, taking all the responsibility and trying to fix things they can’t fix. You will have the other person benefiting from all the rescuing but never learning to take responsibility for their own choices. They will continue their destructive behavior and thoughts patterns. They will also continue to hurt the rescuer. They will not be “fixed” because they see no reason to be “fixed” – the rescuer does everything for them. I’ll give you a real world example.
I did everything for my late husband. I cleaned the house with the exception of his occasional sweep of the house. I did the laundry. I took care of the money and paid the bills (as most of the time he was not interested). I cooked – except for dinner. I took care of his sexual needs. I took care of his emotional needs. I endured his fits. I endured his physical aggression. I endured his verbal aggression. Why did I endure the fits and the physical and verbal aggression? Because I thought if I loved him and I did things a certain way and “pleased” him, he would get better. I rescued him from the consequences of his abusive words and actions for a long time. I made excuse after excuse. I overlooked and I pointed blame at myself. I was exhausted. I rescued him until it blew up in my face. Ladies and gentlemen, it will blow up in your face. I could not fix him and I could not continue to endure his abuse. In the end, my husband took his life. He would have taken mine if I had tried to rescue him that night. My life example is on the extreme side of this coin. I am not saying all “rescues” end in suicide or the threat of homicide. I am also not saying that all persons who are rescued have abuse issues or suicidal tendencies. I am saying that rescuers do not help people face their problems, their emotions and their responsibilities. In so doing, they are hurting the person they are trying to rescue and that person, in turn, hurts them. When you choose to rescue someone instead of allowing them to deal with their pain, their emotions and their choices, you end up on this viscous merry-go-round with them. A merry-go-round that will throw both of you off, one way or another.
I want to encourage everyone reading this blog to instead love the person enough to let them deal with their pain and their emotions. Let them face the choices they have made and take responsibility. I am not saying that you leave them, unless they are being abusive. I am saying you help them identify what solutions they will have to be responsible for to help themselves heal from their pain and to regain control over their lives. If you can’t help them in any way, give them to Jesus. Sometimes, He is the only one who can help them and sometimes, they even reject Him. What and who they reject is not your fault, even if it’s you. That is their responsibility. I was rejected by my late husband, he also rejected Jesus’s help. Yet, even when people do that, all is not lost. Jesus can do far above anything we can so I can confidently say, trust Him.
Jesus did not say rescue one another, He said love one another. Love does not rescue, love empowers. Love allows growth. Love not only allows choices, it allows the consequences of the choices to be realized. Love allows those we care about to be the best people they can be, even when they don’t see that. And the best part of all, His love has already won! Choosing to love, Elizabeth