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 Lightstone Dating And Relationships Leave a Comment

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.

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