I remember having a parakeet in the house when I was a teenager. This little bird did not seem to care much for me or anyone else, that is, until it wanted something. The cage had a small vial for food and another one for water, but whenever I tried to remove the small containers to change out the food or water the bird would be at the edge of the cage trying to bite me. Same went for whenever I tried to put them back. It became very annoying, so I began to let the food run out completely before trying to replace it. That is when something strange happened.
Instead of being at the edge of the cage trying to bite me, the little bird actually seemed to be friendly. To test the theory, I opened the cage and held out my finger for the bird to stand on. It hopped on, and as I withdrew the bird from the cage, it flew to my shoulder where it nuzzled its soft feathers against the side of my neck. I thought the bird had finally had a change of heart and understood that I was only here to help it, but I was wrong.
Once the food and water were refreshed, the little bird flew to the cage and began to squawk and act territorial again, and even went so far as to bite me if I put my hand in the cage to clean the bottom out. I was annoyed. The bird was not a friendly pet, it was a pain, and I soon grew tired of the thing.
Flash forward to a situation that materialized last week when my wife spoke of a friend with family problems. Her friend could not understand why the relationship in her family could not seem to be amended despite all her efforts at trying to do what was right and her efforts to reach out to family members. The results for all her efforts seemed only to anger the family even more, that is, until they needed something.
I think you can see where this is going. It happens a lot in life, not just with family, but in the business world as well. I experienced a similar situation of my own over the past two weeks when I tried to refinance the mortgage on my home. Not going into any details, but suffice it to say it is very safe advice for anyone to keep your own best interests in mind and do everything you legally can to make sure you are getting the best deal possible, because despite the smiles, friendly conversations, and warm handshakes, the banker has no purpose or inclination at looking out for your best interest.
It's a sad commentary on the world as a whole, and as a Christian man trying to live in this world, I sometimes struggle to understand why some people cannot just be straightforward in their business dealings. I have to say I was never lied to, but I was not given straight answers to questions I already knew the answers to, and it only made me angry and frustrated to know that I could not trust this person to look out for me, even though I was about to give them a chunk of business. In the end, I was left with a very bad impression, but a little wiser in dealing with the workings of the world.
What can you do about it? Nothing. In all of the situations above, there is nothing you can do about the decisions other people make in life. You cannot change others, you cannot make decisions for them, you cannot even try to educate them that the relationship, whether with family, business, or otherwise, would actually be better if everyone were transparent and honest. The only thing you have control over is you.
The decisions you make are the only ones you can be held responsible for, and so you simply live and do what is right regardless of what others do, and let others live with the weight of your decisions. Too often, people will make you try to feel guilty or pay a price in lost access to a relationship because of decisions you make. The process is one that tries to lure you into a feeling that you have done something wrong, and that you somehow now owe them something.
When this happens, my advice is to walk away. You simply cannot help some people, no matter how much you give, no matter how hard you try, no matter what lengths you go to trying to be reasonable, they will only maintain the relationship for as long as they get what they want. That kind of one-way relationship will eventually drain you of every resource and energy until you have nothing left to give, and then they will be the ones to end the relationship because you have no value to them anymore.
It isn't healthy. It requires wisdom to know who you can and cannot help, and I am not here to advise on how to differentiate. However, when you identify such a relationship in your life, when you just cannot help despite your best efforts, the only thing you can do to really help them is walk away.