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Thread: Balance: The struggle between strife and pleasure

  1. #1

    Default Balance: The struggle between strife and pleasure

    What is the balance between feeling guilty for fullfilling our own lives, dreams, and desires and our obligation to help those less-fortunate?

    Do we inherit an obligation to help those around us in need? Does this obligation make us less deserving of our own preservation and self-fullfillment? What, if any, is the center-line?

    I have struggled with this question (q's) for some time.

    Perhaps this is more of a question of obligation to a struggling family member than it is a question about charity. I have, for the past 22 years, worried and lamented about my younger brother's well-being. He has been to jail from the result of drug-use. He has spent over 15 months of his life in jail. Seven years later he has managed to be completely drug-free. He has looked healthy and participated in outdoor sports.

    Recently he has lost his decent job and does not look healthy. I fear that he has gone back to his old ways. I am not sure I could bear to go through the pain again. I am at a loss here.

    I guesss my main question is: How much respsnibility must we bear to help out a loved-one-in-need? Can we, as adults, continue in some fashion, enjoy our own successes? Do we own the responsibility to help them even without their asking?

    Where does the balance lie? Or is it a delicate question?

    I am at a loss. My heart is heavy. I feel guilty for wanting to persue my own adventures. I feel helpless. My thoughts are clouded here.

    Any advice, clarification, or insight would be very helpful.

    Thanks for your consideration.

  2. #2


    A difficult balance indeed.

    Not being God or the Pope, I certainly can't give you any definitive judgement or direction, but I can throw out a few thoughts. Bear in mind that I'm not the most sociable human on the planet, so my views may differ significantly from the rest of the world.

    1. Familiy is family. Disregarding any philosophical obligation to fellow humans in general, it is your brother. There's something wrong with you if you don't have some desire to come to the aid of one of your own. The question then becomes, how best to aid?

    2. Maybe another way to look at it is via the Golden Rule. If the situation were reversed, what sort of assistance would you want, and what would you consider unwanted interference in your life? He's been at the bottom, and he's recovered, so he knows the drill. Best case is that he just needs some temporary assistance to get back on track. Assistance doesn't necessarily mean money. Maybe you have some contacts that could be useful in getting him a job. Maybe you could act as a sounding board for setting up goals and a job search plan. Sometimes being accountable to someone for your progress is all it takes. Attempting to storm in and take over his life isn't likely to work, and will be resented.

    3. If substance abuse was the cause rather than the result of job loss, that's a slightly different issue, but goals, a plan and accountability are still the answer. You can't make him go to AA, rehab, or whatever, but you can encourage it and hold him accountable for doing it. Sometimes it just takes a swift kick in the diaper to get someone moving. Especially a swift kick from someone he respects.

    4. Financial assistance is tricky. Buying him a computer or a used car or some other tools he might need to get a job would be OK. Even paying his rent (direct to the landlord...) for a month or two to give him breathing space would be OK. Giving a substance abuser cash is probably a bad idea. He can call it a loan if it makes him feel better, but don't expect to see it again. Steer clear of cosigning for anything. Circling the drain with him doesn't help either of you.

    5. Temporary place to stay? A definite no if you have your own family. Substance abuse presents too high a risk for unpredictable behaviour, and the potential for unsavory associates coming around. If you live by yourself, maybe. He's YOUR brother, you have to judge what sort of risk it represents.

  3. #3


    Having dealt with my brother and cousins and multiple people who were at the same level of importance to me ~ I learned that at some point there is not much else you can do; you can do all you can to help, but at some point those people need to be willing to help themselves or make a change because you can't live their lives for them ~ not saying this is the case for your brother. But for my brother, he would ask for help and I would give it... there came a point in time where I couldn't do anymore not because i didn't want to, but because I had shown him the door and HE had to walk through it. You can't blame yourself for the decisions of your family, regardless of them being your family ~ you are your own person and they are their own people; they are not pets. You can be a beacon of hope or help or advice or aid, but there comes a point in all our lives where we cant pause for others ~ Financial assistance included; my wife's parents are struggling in chile and barely have money for food, and her dad has asked us for money over and over but we don't HAVE money to give them without being short on our bills...

    I guess the point I'm trying to make is to offer what you can, but don't feel guilt or shame in continuing the evolution of your success/future, because you'd be in a better position to help from a stand-point of success than you would in be while in the process of chasing for it.

    I feel your pain, believe me, i've shed tears over the worry I have for certain friends and certain family or friends that were like family... but at some point i couldn't keep torturing myself because of their choices. I made myself available when i could, and tried to be there and be as helpful as I could, but in the end it was their choice on whether or not they wanted to change their ways, i couldn't make them. And funnily enough, most of those people all had the balls to say later on that I "did nothing for them." thats another thing you have to watch out for; often times people make the mistake of believing that your family could never betray or abandon you, but many times in my family and in the families of my friends and even my wife, I have seen people give and give and give and give, and then be told "YOU DID NOTHING FOR US!"... Just something to consider. My dad naturalized my aunt and uncle from venezuela along with their 2 sons, bought them a house, bought them a car, and paid monthly for both, and CONTINUES to pay for certain things (including their sons educations).... yet they have told my dad, after everything he's given, that he doesnt care about them and that he's done nothing for them... and mind you, my parents business is in DEBT right now, and he is STILL paying shit for them... not to mention that their son is in Stanford right now with a full-ride, and he HATES my parents for no reason...

    Family is family, thats true... but they can be just as cruel and greedy as strangers. And they are human beings too, so you can only help them walk so far until you see that only they can walk from a certain point without you ~ otherwise, you risk turning into an enabler.

    Perhaps my post/view is a bit harsh, I don't mean it to be, I'm just being realistic... Family is supposed to be there for you, but after what I've seen in not only my own family, but in the families of my wife and my close friends ~ I've learned that a person's character changes not always by the blood in their veins. Granted, you are kind enough to have the desire to help; because I've had the desire to help people who have done unmentionable things to me, maybe we just have big hearts, but we have to know when to draw a line.

    Also; I'm not saying this is your current situation, im just offering a realist/harsh point of view. For all I know maybe your brother just needs a bit of motivation or maybe the idea of knowing that his brother is here for him is enough to make him feel better. But as Maxx said, he's YOUR brother, you know him best.

  4. #4


    The key issue about helping someone is recognizing whether or not the person actually wants any help, no matter how supportive and non-judgemental it may be. Forcing support on anyone out of a sense of obligation, no matter how well intended, will likely only push your brother further away.

    I think we all feel an obligation, or at least a strong desire to help our own family members, however there are limits as to how much help you can give someone. First of all, it sounds like there may be some recurring problems related to past addictions issues. That may or may not be the case but perhaps there is something else going on that you are not aware of.

    You may want to talk to your brother and share your concerns with him. Let him know that you have noticed some unusual behaviour and that you are worried about him.

    Tell him you want to be supportive so he doesn't wind up in conflict with the law, and that you are there to help in any way you can. Since he's been through the justice system, he likely already knows what professional support is available, but if turns out there is a problem, you may want to help him with some referrals if he wants any help.

    If he isn't ready to talk to you about it, let him know he is still your brother, that you are concerned, and that you're ready to help him if there's anything you can do. Leave it at that. Although it is painful to watch people close to you fall back into a harmful spiral, keep in mind he is ultimately responsible for his own choices and actions.
    Your best tools are compassion with a heavy dose of patience

  5. #5


    Thank you all for the thoughtfull answers.

    Because of the array of suggestions I have been able to decide to help with what I am fully able. The real hard part is worrying but I have decided that if he isn't going to worry about his poor choices then I cannot do it for him.

    I will be there to provide the basics in assistance.

    Thanks again for the helpful advice.

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