You Can't Save Them - Hands Outreached to Help

Don’t Be A Savior, You Can’t Save Them – Here’s Why And What You Can Do Instead

Noam LightstoneDating And Relationships 2 Comments

You are a good person.

You don’t like seeing others in pain, you’d love for there to be peace in the world, and you try to be sympathetic and empathetic towards everyone (unless you are an asshole. In which case, see ya later!)…

But do you ever find yourself saying “Oh if they only knew or did X they’d be so much happier. They’d feel so much less pain”.

Yet they spend their days mired in this “pain”, whether that pain be not living their dreams, being stuck in fear, lazing on the couch when complaining about wanting to lose weight…

So you get frustrated. You try talking sternly to them. You cry and say they are hurting you as well.

Maybe they listen a bit, but still, it’s not really getting through.

And then you hopefully realize…


You cannot save them and “saving” is unhealthy.


People Must Learn And Decide On Things Themselves

There’s an old saying that goes “You can take a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink”. You can give or show people as many resources as you want, you can give them your love and time… but still, they must decide somewhere inside that they need to change.

What about people who seem happy with what they have? If someone is happy coming home after a day of work and just watching TV for 6 hours, even if you show them that they could be out doing so many other activities…

Yeah you guessed it, they need to realize that themselves.

This also, unfortunately, applies to some universal truths and methods of thinking. For example:

  • Someone who is used to always looking at the negative side of things, even when told they don’t have to and are given examples by others, will have to CONSCIOUSLY make an effort themselves to look at the positive side of everything
  • Though it’s well known that work expands to fill your time and one can always do more work, many people will work ungodly 84 hour work weeks and still not be satisfied. Until they learn that they set their own goals and timelines, they will continuously be stuck in a work hell
  • Someone who uses a common defense or avoidance mechanism over and over. Take my story:

After some bad experiences in the past, I didn’t do any dating during my undergrad degree, and really only started when I went to grad school. In the past few years I’ve had some incredibly memorable, fun, and challenging experiences with women that are some of my most fondest (yes, even the bad ones). I am grateful that I finally started, and while I am of course, frustrated I missed out and continuously need to fight my avoider tendencies, I know better now.

Back when I started I read books (a typical avoidance tactic of mine – let’s research instead of doing). Reading one book on how to talk to people is fine, reading fifty is not. It was only two years later that I realized that if I had spent half as much time just talking to people instead of reading, who knows how many countless other experiences I would have had.

As I told this to my friend before moving cities, he said “Hey Noam, you know I told you that a week after you read that first book, right?”.


It didn’t even register in my brain.


Be A Helper, Not A Savior

This article is for you to realize that you can never force someone to change. You can guide them, but they must consciously want to do it themselves. Moreover, NEVER try and get someone to change because you fundamentally don’t like them. That’s manipulative, passive-aggressive, and you’ll always find something else to hate on. Love them as they are, or leave out of love.

Give them resources because you love them and want to help them be better, because you want to see them happier. If they are scared to talk to people, show them resources to get over their fears. If they are trying to start a business, give them some website addresses that have good e-books. If they aren’t being productive, introduce them to your accountability group.

Finally, remember that trying to “fix” someone can be a boundary issue. There is nothing wrong with helping someone, but there is something wrong with taking on their emotional issues as your own. Even the term “save” seems to denote some kind of divine intervention. You have enough of your own challenges to face, don’t take on those of others.


Be a helper, not a savior.


Are You Listening To The People Trying To Help You?

And now let’s turn it back squarely on to you. You may have people trying to help you right now – they tell you about things to look out for, be happier with, and so on…

But one truth will always remain: you need to go out and experience things, and figure it out for yourself. You take in some whispers from outside about what might or could be done better, put it through your consciousness, then say, “is this something I need to work on or consider?”

For me, though I realized many people had told me these things before, I need to learn that:

  • I avoid difficult things by over researching or over-thinking
  • There are tons of good people out there, and I shouldn’t waste my time on those that I don’t feel great around. I also shouldn’t go crazy when I don’t talk to one pretty girl, there are many
  • I am good looking, smart, and intelligent. I am a good person
  • I am an anxious type person, and take a lot of things more seriously then they need to be
  • Laughing at myself helps a lot

As I realize these things myself, my thinking has and is changing to suit more healthier ways of living. This then is reflected in how I am during the day and how I spend my time.


This blog was created as a resource to help people. I would love for you to always be happy and know everything about how to live a peaceful life full of joy, but that’s impossible.


I can only show you what I’ve found and what’s out there as I continue to find it myself.

It’s up to you to take it in to your life.


We can help each other, but we’ll never save anyone.


Three Key Points

  • We can help other people, and should want to. We should be empathetic to the distress and problems of others, and try to offer any advice we think that can help.
  • Saving denotes taking on someone else’s emotional problems as your own, and can be a major boundary issue.
  • In the end, a person must want to help themselves. We cannot force anyone to be happier or healthier, or listen to our advice.

So, have you been trying to save someone?


Image Credit: Cover picture courtesy of Dany Masson under the Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license.

Comments 2

  1. First of all sorry for my English, i’m from Sweden.
    A guy three years older then me have i been known since December 2019, is not feeling god at all. He have been suicidal since he was very young and have 4 unsuccessful suicides. First when we began to talk we both was into each other with love but suddenly he didn’t reply to me in 8 weeks. I did miss him all the time but i just thought he didn’t want me but after 8 weeks I missed him so much i sent a text and we started to write to each other again. He started to open up to me a little more, i did know he was suicidal before but i now realized it was worse than I thought. He is now drinking a lot to numb the pain and is taking drugs. He explained to me how he just wanted to end his life again and that no one can save him which is kinda true. Right now he is not texting me often anymore but when I try to ask him how he is feeling he is telling me “very bad” but he talks away it. And this shit with my own shitty life is tearing me apart to be honest. He doesn’t want something with me and I understand that because he needs to work on himself and other relationships from his past has been very bad. The girls he been with was cheating on him and the last girl he been with was cheating many times and raping him while he was on a xanax drug overdose. So I understand that he needs to work on himself and that he is afraid of relationships. But i want to be there as a friend to him because he means so freaking much to me. When we first meet i was in dark times and still now but he made me feel better. And there’s just something beautiful with him, i feel so protective of him. He’s soul is so beautiful and he got the beautifulest wings ever. If he trying to suicidal again I would offer my life to him. He means so much to me and dont know it. But now im starting to feel very bad like never before. My past is very bad and right now my mom got cancer and I got suicidal thoughts to but i would never suicidal if i know my mom is getting worse and he is gonna suicide to. I just wanna leave him because this is not a healthy situation and i know it myself but if i leave him i need to take him away on every social media because either way i will not me able to move on. And if i dont have contact with him i dont know how he is doing and dont know if he will suicidal again. He is the only thing i think about every day and the hole night because i dont sleep much anymore. Im hurting because the only thing i wish for is to se him happy again. Its so complicated when he doesn’t show he appreciates your effort to make him feel better while Im getting worse myself. Every part of me adores him and I would live is pain for the rest of my life if he suicidal again and i know I couldn’t save him. This text was very long and hazy i know but i just wanna know what to do. I have no one to talk to because no one will ever understand and my friends just telling me to leave but they don’t know him and don’t understand how I feel about him. I would be so happy if someone could help me and tell me what to do.

    1. Hello Emilia. I don’t know if you are still there, but I have some similarities with what you were going through. It’s so difficult when someone you care about so much doesn’t seem to see that you do, especially if you develop feeling for them. I cared about someone too, and I only wanted the best for them. If you still need someone to talk to, then you can if I can help. Sadly I don’t talk to the person I cared about so much, they said they would only mess me about again. Our feelings for each other were complicated and she wasn’t in the right place to feel the same way I did for her. She then left our place of work a little while later and I never got a goodbye. I know exactly how you feel when you talk about talking with your friends. Mine would tell me to forget about her, or why do you care so much, or get a grip. She was hurting so much inside and I wanted to do anything I could to help, that included ignoring my own feelings, because I was getting hurt along the way too. It’s hard when someone has such a impact on you. It’s hard to let go. What you have to keep telling yourself is, is that you are a good person and you cared about this person and only wanted the best for them. They may not realise it in the moment, but one day I’m sure they will see the good you tried to do. I hope that my friend will see that one day, and that maybe they’ll remember me.

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