This is a difficult and painful truth. Many of us have people in our lives we worry about, people who desperately need to make changes in their lifestyle to be healthier. It might be a parent, sibling, spouse, child, or close friend and it comes from a place of love. You can see them suffering. You can see the pain and disease and you can also see how making some changes could really help ease their suffering.
And yet, it’s not in your hands to help them.
Unless and until the motivation to change comes from inside them…nothing you can do will help them. That’s worth repeating because it’s such a difficult thing to accept. Unless and until the motivation to change comes from inside them…nothing you can do will help them.
In my own life, I’ve struggled a LOT with this. I thought if I took all the work out of the changes those I loved needed to make, then they would be able to make them. If I cooked all the healthy foods and didn’t buy anything unhealthy…they’d eat healthy. Instead, they just snuck unhealthy foods outside the home or when I wasn’t looking. If I helped them find a workout program…they’d be able to work out and become healthier. Instead, they just skipped the workouts. The problem wasn’t that the diet was wrong or the workout program wasn’t a good fit. The problem was that the motivation to change was coming from me…not the person who needed to make the change.
Conversely, I also fell into the trap of using the sick people in my life as an excuse to ignore my own health. This is so easy to do. If everyone around you is not exercising and eating junk…why shouldn’t you? If you’re watching someone you love slowly die from lifestyle issues…why should you work hard to change yours?
It’s so easy to just give up, but that only makes the problem worse.
So…if you can’t change others…what can you do?
Counterintuitively, the BEST thing you can do in this situation is actually focus on yourself. Work on the things you need to improve and let go of whatever the other people in your life are doing. Take care of your health. Of course, keep hoping and praying that one day they’ll be ready to join you, but don’t wait for them. In this way, you create both an example and a healthier environment for them, but accept that they may never be ready to make those kinds of changes…and love them anyway.
Real love isn’t “I’ll love and accept you if you live your life the way I think you should,” even if that means that the person you love is making unhealthy choices…those are still their choices to make. Love is accepting the people you love wherever they are, just as they are. The best thing you can do is stay in your lane, remain positive, and keep working on yourself so that you are healthy and strong when they need you.
The rest? Is up to them and G-d.