As a child, we may remember sitting in a swing, being pushed by our parents, and taking flight with what seemed to be the greatest of ease. Our back-and-forth sway ends, though, when our parent wearies in their work. At some point in our growth, we learn that if we move our legs just right and lean into our lift, we can swing through the air under our own self-generated power.
As a parent, we may remember the joy in which we deliver those tender pushes to our child in a swing. We hear their delight in their wonder of how this could really be happening. When we get distracted or tire in our efforts, the wonder dissipates in the breeze, and the child is off to the next thing.
It is a swing of freedom and responsibility – more freedom heightens or untethers responsibility.
- How much do we continue to guide?
- When do we own our efforts?
- When are we taking advantage of someone?
- When do we feel like we are being taken advantage of?
At any point in life, we may need a push. It is the advice on how to approach a situation. It is guidance on how to improve another’s outlook, skill, or efforts. From the viewpoint of the leader, spouse, or parent, we gladly lend a hand, a listening ear, and a word of encouragement and direction. It is what we do.
And then the point may come where we feel like the other person isn’t trying. We see the same behaviors continue. We see the same questionable choices being made. We see no progress in doing what they said they were going to do. We feel taken advantage of as the problems or issues swing back to us, and we hear the pleading stories of how this time it will be different.
There is a point of choice.
- It is our choice of when to walk away or stay.
- It is their choice of action or inaction.
In all cases, there is a consequence. There is an outcome for the giving person and the receiving one.
Walking away is a tough choice, yet it may be the only way in which another gains a footing in what they need to do. Being left to determine how to regain momentum in their life may only happen when they are at an unsupported standstill or, worse, a free-fall. Of course, the support may return, but only when the first move comes from the other’s effort.
Ignoring all forms of advice is an easy choice, yet it may be one that leads us to the full reality of its costs. The costs may add up to losing jobs, friends, a partner, and direction. Life intensifies in a downward spiral, with only us to stop it all and begin taking steps up to new ground of how to grow our life in more productive ways.
It is a pendulum of freedom and responsibility. In tandem, both keep us moving in the right direction. The swing impacts the person in the seat and the one providing the encouraging hand, voice, ear, and spirit. It is a choice of evaporating or creating momentum.
Finding the balance is the challenge for every leader, parent, spouse, partner, and friend.
Determining when to empower your own life – with the support of a community – is the challenge for everyone sitting in the seat of support.
We are all have a responsibility, but when have we gone too far or not far enough? Is there a boundary crossed when someone needs to be on their own?