Q I have a friend who takes advantage of my willingness to help her out. I really want to support her, but how do I deal with the conflicting roles of being a good friend to her while taking care of myself?
A It is true that part of what it means to “take up our cross” is to spend time cultivating relationships that are not first of all designed for our own benefit. We are called to work for justice for the poor, share our own wealth, visit the lonely and the sick, help and encourage those knocked off their feet. This pouring out of ourselves for the sake of others is what we choose to do because we take seriously the command of our Lord to “do to the least of these” in his name.
The challenge for us is to do this without taking on the responsibility of decision-making for others. When we do something for a person that we think they should and could be doing for themselves, we are fostering an unhealthy dependence and taking a burden of responsibility on ourselves when that burden belongs with the other person.
If you experience being “taken advantage of” in the relationship, the possibility exists that you are feeling responsible to help your friend change in order to improve her situation. If that is what you feel, it is time to step back.
Unhealthy dependence (in contrast to healthy dependence, for instance, of children toward their parents or of elderly parents toward their children) leads to care-giver burnout and does not characterize friendship. Being a friend means accepting another adult the way she is and allowing her to be responsible for the choices she makes. Part of your friendship may need to include a frank conversation about what you can realistically do by way of spending time or money to support your friend.
It is true that some people have very complex needs. If your friend needs help in many different areas (financially, physically, emotionally, and relationally), then you might want to encourage her to broaden her friendship group to include both formal social services and informal community or church supports.
Organizations such as WrapAround involve the person requesting help in the decision-making process about what is needed and how that help is to be supplied.
In the end, give yourself permission to set limits on the support you provide. Loving your neighbor as yourself suggests that you create a balance between meeting others’ needs as well as your own.
Judy Cook is a family therapist living in Hamilton, Ontario. She is a member of Meadowlands Fellowship Christian Reformed Church in Ancaster.
Q What advice can you give to parents who want to train their kids to handle money God’s way?
A Kids need at least three things to experience the joy of honoring God with their money:
Passion. A couple of years ago, Beckie and I gave our kids $100 each and asked them to take a week to decide how best to give the money away. They researched and prayed and after seven days came up with 18 needs and kingdom causes they wanted to give to. It was thrilling for Beckie and me to witness their excitement—putting the money they were entrusted with in envelopes (along with handwritten notes) and sending it to people and ministry organizations here and around the world. Their passion increased when they received updates and feedback from several of the organizations they gave to, including a newsletter that reprinted my daughter’s note, as well as a personal letter of encouragement to my son from the president of a global missions organization.
Plan. Each of our kids is on the 10-10-80 plan. It’s very simple. For every dollar that comes in, we suggest that they split it up three ways: the first 10 percent or more is their “God” money, given away to their church and to support suffering people. The next 10 percent or more is set aside for things they are saving up for down the road (recent examples include a new bike and a Laura Ingalls “Little House on the Prairie” dress). And the rest—80 percent or less—is to spend on things they “need” now, like ice cream, batteries, and Newsboys CDs.
Principles. The “glue” that holds the passion and plan together for kids is principles from the Word of God taught and modeled by Mom and Dad. Joshua 1:8 says, “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” If that’s true (and it is), then we parents need to spend regular time with our kids unpacking the Bible together and talking about how it applies to our financial lives. It can be as simple as taking a verse about money (there are over 2,000 of them!) and asking “What does this verse mean?” and “How can we live this out?” Another idea is to check out the Barnabas Foundation website (www.barnabasfoundation.com) for a listing of some excellent resources to help parents train their kids and teens to handle money God’s way.
Mike Buwalda (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a stewardship consultant to Barnabas Foundation.