Supportive through the Gray

I like to think of myself as a very supportive person. I’m a hype-man with my friends –  cheering them on and supporting them – and I’m a cushion for my family – someone they can fall back on if they ever lose their balance or stumble. But one of the things I have a hard time doing is being supportive when I don’t want to be. This doesn’t mean I don’t want to encourage the people I love just because I don’t feel like it (although encouragement can be hard when you don’t always feel it yourself), but rather, supporting people through decisions I don’t necessarily approve of or agree with can be challenging.

Every day I’m forced to remind myself that people don’t think the way I do. Not everyone has the same dreams. Not everyone has the same plans. Not everyone has the same tolerance or the same mindset. You would think this is common sense, and it kind of is, but that doesn’t mean it’s something I always remember. I could be in a conversation or an argument and it won’t even occur to me that this person is different – it’s not until I actively remind myself that they are not the same that I’ll then try to change my perspective to one that matches theirs in order to understand. But sometimes I reallyyy don’t want to. I just want them to think like me. I just want them to see why what they’re doing/saying is ridiculous. (I can practically hear the gasps and whispers about how I’m being selfish.) But this is something everyone thinks, just not everyone admits to thinking it.

Lately I’ve been watching as someone I love hasn’t been supported in the way he needs because people (myself included) don’t agree with his ways. But what I’ve realized is that this lack of support isn’t pushing him to do the right thing, instead, it’s just pushing him away. Right and wrong aren’t concepts that are set in stone. There are clearly things that should be right to everyone and there are things that should be wrong to everyone, but there is also a very large gray area that nobody can agree on. Maybe it’s not our place to tell someone what shade of gray they’re standing on – whether it’s right or wrong. I think the better option would be to step back and tell the person that if they succeed, you’ll be proud, and if they fall, you’ll catch them.

The reason supporting people through decisions you don’t deem “right” is difficult is because you see failure on the other end. But if we could acknowledge that we see failure, while trying to understand how the other person sees success, well, maybe that’s what true support is.

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