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When You Rescue An Angry Person ... You'll Only Have to Do It Again

Mar 03, 2020

I was on a financial radio show taking calls about setting boundaries in families with financial issues. A woman called about her forty-year-old sister to whom she and her husband had been giving money for several years. It seemed that the sister had a lot of problems and “needed their help,” as she put it. But the caller was beginning to wonder if helping was really helping. In other words, in spite of all the “help” they had given her sister, she was not getting any more self-sufficient. 

“Does she work?” I asked. 

“No, she lives off my father’s Social Security,” she said. “But that, along with some other family money, does not seem to be enough. Or, more accurately, she always seems to overspend what she has coming in. So we always help her out in the crunch. My husband and I are getting tired of it.” 

“Has she had mental illness or some disability that keeps her from working?” I asked. 

“Well, she has seen a lot of counselors, but she always quits before they do her any good. She is on some kind of medication, but there is nothing really wrong with her that would keep her from working. She gets a lot of jobs, but then quits after a few days when they want her to do something she doesn’t want to do.” 

“So there is no real reason that she cannot work,” I said, “and no signs of illness or disability, then why don’t you set up requirements for her to meet if you are going to give her money? For example, you could insist that she stay in counseling and do some work or you are not going to support her. Anytime we support someone, there should be structure to it with clear expectations understood by the recipient and enforced by the giver. Why don’t you do that?”

“Well, our experience is that whenever we withhold help from her, she gets really mad,” she explained. “She blows up and blames us for her problems. We don’t want to make that happen again.” 

“Let me tell you something,” I said. “There is a direct correlation with people who are out of control in their lives and their hatred of the word no. You usually do not see responsible people get angry and go on the attack just because they do not get what they want. But often you do see irresponsible people getting mad when they hear no. Just like toddlers who do not get what they want, they throw a tantrum. And if you give in to it, you will find out how true the words of Solomon are. He said, ‘Do not rescue an angry man, lest you have to do it again tomorrow’ (Proverbs 19:19), my paraphrase). In other words, if you give in once to her anger, get ready to do it again the next time you say no.”

That is the thing to remember about trying to appease controlling and angry people. If you let their anger decide your course of action for you—whether to give or not to give—then you have just trained them in how to get what they want out of you. You have set yourself up for the same experience again.

In addition, do you really want to give to someone who is only going to hate you if you do not? What kind of a relationship is that? What kind of love is that? True love would accept your choice and respect your having to say no.

If you are resetting your course based on the fact that someone might get angry with you, you have chosen a flimsy foundation upon which to make a decision. You have lost control of yourself, and that is not what successful people do. They are not held hostage by anger.


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