Supporting someone and rescuing another are two totally different ways of being. One is based upon the belief that the other person involved is capable, able, and whole. The other is based upon the belief that the other person involved is broken, in need of repair, and incapable. The outcome of holding someone in each of these views results in very different endings.
I often hear from parents that it is important to support our children. Check. I couldn’t agree more. Then I dig. I ask what support looks like, and here is where trouble can start. I hear all sorts of explanations of ‘support’, and many are actually rescuing.
Do any of the following sound familiar?
Calling another parent when your child gets into a disagreement
Saying that your child needs you to be there to help sort out an issue at school
Speaking for your child, rather than asking their opinion or desires
Not letting your child work to solve their own issues before getting involved
The list can go on. These are rescues, which are very different from support. Rescuing is subversive. It slowly and consistently tells another that they are not capable, that you are needed to come in and fix their situation. It kills self-confidence, and why wouldn’t it? When we rescue (I do it, too) we say over and over that another couldn’t possibly handle this on their own. It creates a very dis-empowered view of the world for the other person.
Support has a very different feel. Support is being with, not solving. It often involves questions concerning the other such as, “How did that make you feel?”, “What could you do about the situation?”, “What did you learn?”, and “What else?” It could involve you sharing a tough story of your own when you felt the same way. One thing that is imperative and far different from rescuing is your point of view. It is holding the view that the other is capable and able to solve their own struggles. The situation is not about you, it is about the other. There is no call to action for you to solve or fix.
Now, it is important to note, there are absolutely times that someone is in danger or in a situation that truly requires assistance. I’m not talking about those situations. I’m talking about the day to day situations that come up in our relationships. Those times when we rush in to rescue rather than feel into the vulnerability of another’s struggle. It is far easier for many of us to solve the issue and move on than it is to sit with them in their discomfort. After all, sitting with discomfort requires us to tap into our own personal history of struggle. But, the long term impact of rescuing is detrimental. It erodes self confidence, worthiness, and one’s agency.