I have a “Rescuer Personality.” I sincerely believe this comes from being conditioned to be a care giver, to take care of others. I see someone struggling and want to help. I see someone in need and have to act. This gets me into a lot of trouble, because sometimes people just need to vent and complain a bit, not really looking for help and sometimes people are looking for someone to take care of their problems for them.
Recently, my best friend told me she had to cancel her eye appointment, as something else came up that required the money she’d put back for the exam. The next time we saw each other she didn’t have her glasses on. She’d had the same pair for more than 12 years, they were in terrible shape. I asked her where her glasses were and she told me they’d broken. She’d been wearing a pair of her son’s old glasses to work, though they were not close to her prescription, she was able to see better than not having any glasses at all.
She said she would be rescheduling her eye exam, but had to have something until then. I told her I had a couple of my old pairs of glasses handy and asked if she wanted to see if one of those prescriptions was closer to what she needed. She agreed and tried on a couple pair. When I offered her my backup pair, the most recent prescription I’d had before getting my new glasses, she said they were almost perfect.
I explained to her that she could use them until she got her new glasses. She said they would make work a lot easier. I asked her if she wanted a pair of my frames for her new glasses, but she made a face about the color of my frames. I reiterated that she could borrow them, but to keep in mind they are, after all, my back up glasses should something happen to my new ones.
She wore them the rest of the evening. A week passed. When she visited again she didn’t have the glasses on. I asked her why she wasn’t wearing them, did they give her a headache?
She’d lost my glasses. I was speechless. She went on… “I either left them at work and they were stolen or they fell out of my bag when I was out somewhere, because I can’t find them anywhere.”
When the power of speech returned to me I asked her why she hadn’t been wearing them? She’d indicated they were nearly perfect for her eyes and that she needed something because she couldn’t see. (Keep in mind she’d not had a new exam in approximately 12 years and is diabetic.)
She didn’t answer my question. She responded with, “I think they’re gone.” I felt my mouth falling open as I looked at her, not sure what to say. She sharply blurted out, “I’ll pay you for them.”
My friend doesn’t have a lot of money. She’s always struggling to pay bills, make her rent on time, etc. She had to cancel her eye exam to be able to afford to make an appointment for her cat to see the Vet. Her father recently paid a number of months of her rent for her in advance, so she could use her income to get caught up and purchase a new stove and a sofa. Even though she no longer has $700 a month to pay for her rent until next year, she seems to be struggling to make ends meet. She hasn’t been able to afford to get the stove or sofa. She’s not spending money on groceries, but ordering take out.
I asked her how she could afford to pay for them, when she couldn’t afford to have her exam. She said she didn’t know where all her money was going. It turns out she’s bought three (smart) cell phones and a new Kindle recently.
Had I realized she was spending her money on things like that, rather than getting caught up and getting her own new glasses, etc., I would never have offered to lend her my glasses.
Once again, I jumped in to help, rescuing someone who needs to figure things out for themselves, as her family is already rescuing her, which is clearly enabling her to be irresponsible with her money.
What really upset me, was her complete lack of gratitude. If someone lent me something of value, of theirs, I would be especially careful with it. I’d want to be sure I returned it in the same condition I received it.
I should have known better. I should have just stayed out of it, let her figure out what her priorities were, how she was going to take care of her own needs. I’ve often thought, during the 38 years we’ve known each other, that her parents constantly intervening with money, was contributing to her not being able to adequately take care of herself, and here I was intervening and rescuing her, not really all that different than what her parents have been doing.
I should have thought about my own needs, knowing those particular glasses were my back up, I shouldn’t have even offered them.
Another week has passed, since she told me she’d lost my glasses, and she called the other day to let me know she’d found them. I asked her where they’d been and she said they were in a drawer at her house. She had no recollection of how they got there, whether she put them there, or whether her adult son might have, but she’d found them.
I’m left wondering if she even wore them at all once she left my house with them. If she didn’t, why did she agree to borrow them? Why not just say, “Thanks for the offer, but I think I’ll get by with what I have until I can get an appointment?”
This incident has really made me think about the way I enable people by wanting to rescue them, that I’m preventing them from dealing with the consequences of their own choices, preventing them from learning life lessons and having to brainstorm their own way out of trying circumstances.
I sometimes think I should focus on rescuing me from myself. I create a lot of stress for myself by wanting to help everyone and I’m usually disappointed to realize that the folks I’m helping either don’t really want the help or don’t appreciate it.