At three o’clock in the morning, when our phone rings, we have a pretty good idea who it is that’s calling us. We all know folks whose lives s are filled with constant drama, who always find themselves in situations, who always need to be bailed out one way or another. Folks whose tendency towards bad decision making results in consequences that suddenly become your problem.

Their lives follow a familiar pattern: your friend picks the wrong person, and you are left to pick up the pieces. Their temper allows a simple misunderstanding to be blown up into to all manner of new heights. Their work situations are ever untenable, always due to the fault of a boss or some co-worker (never their fault). And this is before we get to the alcohol and drug abuse.

You can’t save everyone, especially folks who aren’t ready to be saved. Folks often don’t recognize themselves as self-destructive, their hard-to-control impulses are merely quirks of theirs that people have to learn to accept because they “keep it real.”

They don’t understand that watching them spiral frustrates friends and those who love them. No one wants to watch people they care about make poor life decisions or hurt themselves and we hate the feeling of powerlessness that comes with ringside seats to their latest drama.

But we also can’t live their lives for them. Sometimes you have to let people make their mistakes, our job is to be there for them, to walk beside them, to help pick up the pieces but not do the sweeping ourselves. You have to know when to distance yourself from them as to not allow their drama to bleed into your life and as to not be the constant maid for their lives.

Some people are their own worst enemies. Granted, some folks attract needy people and like to play the white knight charging to the rescue. It’s always easier to focus on rescuing someone else than dealing with your own life, but you have to do what’s best for both of you. Compassion is good; to drown in their mess is not. Sometimes you have to set boundaries for both of your sakes. Sometimes compassion means helping them find the tools to clean up their own mess. But at three o’clock in the morning, my phone shouldn’t be ringing all the time.

[You know, it’s easy to say this, but I already know in my heart that when the phone rings, I’m going to answer it. I know you can’t save everyone, especially those who don’t want to be saved, but sometimes you just have to keep trying.]

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