There are moments in our own lives when we are too blind to see the harm we are causing ourselves, physically, emotionally, socially, spiritually. We want what we want, believing it will make us happy, believing that instead of harming us, it will fix us, strengthen us, complete us. I have been there so many times. I always seem to be on the edge of it. Willing to make any excuse as to why it is better for me to choose an easy wrong, than the difficult good that God asks of me.
Many times those around us can see these choices we are making, and sometimes we hide them from others very well. But when they see the choices we are making, or are about to make, they can see what we won’t allow ourselves to see. They see the danger we may be placing our body, mind, soul, health, and relationships in. They love us, and they desire that none of that harm should befall us. They talk to us, they show us what we have either ignored or not considered. They plead with us to consider the big picture. Hopefully our hearts are opened, but oftentimes, we refuse.
So what are they supposed to do? What are the people who love us so much supposed to do? Are they supposed to give up and pretend that the harm we are causing ourselves is not the harm they know it to be? Are they supposed to continue to hound us and get in our faces about what we are doing to ourselves? I think that neither of these choices is a good choice. Regarding the former, Scripture talks in so many places about our responsibility to our brothers and sisters, our responsibility to live in truth, and our responsibility to the moral good. To lie about truth, and encourage those we supposedly love to continue to harm themselves whether it is physical, spiritual, or otherwise, can in no way be considered loving. As to the latter, there comes a point in time when further discussion and attempts at persuasion simply will do no good. This is the point where they have done all they can, it is where intellect meets will, and it is an internal battle that is between the one they love and God. The one they love knows what is right, but it is up to their will, and their will alone, to choose the good. They may end up doing more harm than good by continuing to persist. I think it was St. Paul who gave us the image of leaving a town that refuses the truth, and shaking the dust off our feet. All they can do is present the truth and allow others to accept or refuse it.
So what can they do? Personally, I think that it goes without saying that they must continue to love, but I think that how that love looks may change. I think it continues with constant prayer for the other. I think it means making it clear that they are always going to be there for them, but that depending on what exactly the other is doing, it may require keeping a certain distance, erecting new boundaries that perhaps weren’t there before. I think that they need to remember that, though they have a duty towards others, they have a duty to care for their own soul and to reject anything that is not true, not of Christ.
To the other, this may seem unloving. It may seem like a personal, and shunning rejection. But this, of course is not the truth. For these people we can only pray, pray for their conversion, for their peace, for their physical, emotional, and spiritual health. And for those finding themselves having to make the difficult choice to keep a distance, we pray for their strength, fortitude, and courage.