Some folks create the rain clouds, complain that it’s raining and then ask you to stand in their rain while they take off for sunshine with your umbrella. They best take it, they reason, because they might have another rain cloud soon (and they will, since they make them). I don’t know if everyone has experienced this phenomenon, but if you have, you may or may not even know who you are. Cloud-makers often cover their tracks extremely well.
A friend of mine described perfectly how it feels to be the one left chronically, repeatedly standing out in the rain of another person’s making. It’s like walking through chest-high mud. And each mud-walk feels harder and harder, because you’re more fatigued each time than the last. The incessant rain just adds to the grossness and exponentially increases the difficulty of moving a muscle.
Now maybe you have encountered people who create these kinds of obstacles and turmoil from a different motive, but I’ve personally experienced a certain one. It’s that people weighed down in a muddy torrent are easier to control.
Exhausted people don’t make ready escapes to freedom. They eventually can’t easily flee the storms, because they’re so busy trying to survive the storms. It’s distracting and draining. It’s also very effective for the one who benefits from keeping someone else stuck still. The stuck one carries all the weight and can’t throw off the weight because they’re weak from carrying all the weight so they just have to keep carrying and sticking stuck. And this kind of weight lifting doesn’t create endurance but an eventual collapse.
The person conjuring up storms and filling mud pools often convincingly claims, I’m in a crisis, so I can’t do this…that…the other thing…my responsibility…the thing I wish to avoid…the challenge that feels uncomfortable…the problem or pain I don’t want to face, so there, you should take it, woe is me, look at all my storms, one after the other, I’m the victim here. And sadly, when you’re the type who can’t imagine anyone doing such a thing on purpose to avoid responsibilities (that probably would’ve been far easier to just handle than sidestep in such a fancypants way), it works well to fool you.
There are two problems with that there modus operandi. 1) The thing they made the storm to avoid was their responsibility, not yours. 2) They’ve left you handling their initial responsibility plus the storm used to avoid their initial responsibility while they walk off to greener, mud-less, cloudless pastures with your umbrella and mud boots.
This is how responsibility avoidant people use good-hearted, responsible people. And it’s an education we don’t get in school and most parents hesitate to teach, because we don’t want jaded kids. We want to believe the best and pretend the worst doesn’t exist sometimes.
We want to believe in good-hearted people and a world where it’s always safe and beneficial to help carry one another’s burdens, especially our intimates. We want to believe in a world full of responsible people who know they’re not entitled to anything, particularly avoiding work, discomfort, pain or their own problems. We want to think nobody would ever hoist these things relentlessly onto a kind-hearted, considerate person near them.
But reality requires that those good-hearted people best learn that there are predators for whom they make perfect prey, simply because they haven’t been taught that this type of predator even exists. There are simply some folks on whom boundaries have to be placed, because they won’t place those boundaries on themselves.
Probably the best way to differentiate how much rain and mud to endure on someone else’s behalf is to evaluate the causes of their slimy messes over time—look for patterns. Do they have common denominators? For example, most simply, did an action of theirs that they chose to do or not do directly bring on the problem? Does heavy rainfall always serve as a source of escape for the cloud-maker from handling another, distinct problem? Do you always end up under the cloud alone? Are you almost always the sole problem solver when they should be? Does the mud cause such exhaustion and confusion that you become the one at whom the finger is pointing–you become the problem instead of the mud dumper taking responsibility for filling pool after pool with mud for you to walk through? Do you eventually feel like you’re residing in quick-drying cement poured by another person to no good end, not as a foundation for anything at all but simply a stumbling block that keeps you from ever moving forward? Do you feel unable to escape chronic chaos and crises that never had to happen if everyone had taken primary responsibility for their own work, emotions or challenges?
Good people know that life happens and nobody escapes all storms. That’s why they jump in and help out. That’s why their hearts beat in sync with another person who’s suffering. That’s why good people yearn to bring relief to those they love or even those they don’t know, just because they’re hurting humans.
On the flip-side, tricky people manufacture and use storms to take charge, to keep others off-kilter, to deflect and defend against their own lack of character. They abuse empathy in good people without returning anything remotely resembling empathy in kind.
If you come to find yourself in one of those chronic deluges or quicksand pits, it’s time to take stock. You get one life, and it wasn’t created for anyone else to sabotage or suppress with your approval.
If you jumped into the foxhole of life with someone who had absolutely no control over the battle they’re fighting or isn’t in the habit of making waves to drown people around them, then hats off and kudos to you for your sacrificial service and love. I believe there are rewards for you here and on the other side.
But if you’re consistently finding yourself a drowned rat or nearly fossilized artifact in the pool of someone else’s self-made rain and sludge, carrying baggage that someone else should’ve unloaded long ago or at minimum not hoisted onto your back, then you may possess idiot compassion. It’s time to back away (slowly and safely if they’re the dangerous type who get worse when they’re stripped of control).
If you’re going to be under a cloud, let it be because life gave you no choice and you’re soaked, yes, but able to conquer, emerge and dry off eventually. If you’re in the rain, let it be because you’re enjoying a jump in a mud puddle by choice. If you’re going to swim in a pool, let it be a rejuvenating one. If you have to walk through the mud, let it be to the top of a mountain with a breathtaking view, not the drudgery of pulling the weight of a responsibility avoidant person around in endless circles, uphill both ways. (That’s not good for them either, by the way.)
We all create storms now and then. We’re human. We don’t reject our precious people for the occasional mess of their own making, or even a short series of them or unusual-but-intermittent ones over a long period of time. However, if there’s evidence that clouds are created by repetitive negligence, mud is poured on with manipulative purpose, no remorse ever emerges and nothing is learned or adjusted to protect you as a co-load bearer, read the signs. Heed the elements. You’ve got a non-reciprocal relationship going on with a person unconcerned for your ultimate welfare, taking as much as you’ll give without returning the favor. And as Steven Furtick puts it so aptly, “Withdrawing more money than you deposit into the bank is called stealing.” You don’t have to endorse theft from your finite well of energy and attention.
Break free from artificial storms whenever possible, tired and hindered souls. Life provides enough real ones for weathering all on its own.
With Hope and Heart in Hand,
Provided by Writer’s Block Prose, LLC