Sometimes being chivalrous and having an innate desire to save a damsel in distress is a really admirable quality. Other times, it can feel far more like a curse than a blessing. It used to be something that got me into all manner of situations I probably should have just avoided, but over the past few years, I’ve adopted a new motto regarding this. It’s on display on the toolbox I use as my workstation at the studio, as well as clearly visible across the back of my primary motorcycle helmet. It reads, “You can’t save a damsel, if she loves her distress.”
With a few changes in language, it can apply to a much broader range of situations, but the main idea stays true. You can’t help anyone that doesn’t really want, in their heart of hearts and most honest moments, to see their situation changed. For me personally, situations like this are much easier to avoid when there isn’t a woman involved. I really do try not to fall into gender biases and I don’t want to treat women as anything less than just as capable of handling any situation that a man can, but I do still feel like I’m kind of hardwired to be more protective over women that I care about.
So when I’m presented with a situation where a woman (or a man, but more so when it’s a woman) that I care for is in a state of distress because someone is making her feel threatened, AND it’s a situation she genuinely wants to see rectified, it changes the game just a bit. This still doesn’t automatically mean I’ll climb on my trusty steed to ride in and save the day though. It’s these sorts of situations that I feel the greatest pull to provide assistance, and thus they are the ones I need to be most mindful of getting involved in. The issue of when to do so and when not to is the subject of consideration tonight.
As much as I like to save the day, I’ve gotten to the point in my life where I’d always prefer to see someone save themselves. I love seeing people step into their own power, be self-sufficient, and feel empowered by an experience. Overcoming something that seemed insurmountable and scary at the onset not only builds strength and character, but it gives you greater insights into what you’re capable of, builds confidence, and can provide an incredibly freeing sense of independence.
The other aspect that I take into consideration is my own personal set of boundaries. Just because I CAN do something, and it will help someone else out, doesn’t always mean that it’s in my own best interest to do so. This is the one that I usually find to be troubling. I’m generally pretty clear and firm when it comes to the boundaries I set for myself, but my savior type nature makes it hard to not act when I see someone in need of my assistance. I know I’m strong enough, and fully capable of helping out, and I feel like by not doing so that I become the proverbial good man who does nothing, thus allowing evil to triumph.
I truly want to continue to be the self-sacrificing type of person that will always extend a helping hand to lift another from the ground, but there must be limits on how much I will sacrifice, lest I have nothing left for my daughter or myself. Being a parent definitely changes the variables involved in this particular equation, just as it seems to change everything else in life. I always want to be the knight in shining armor to that little woman and I cannot be there for her as I wish to be if I’m always off in search of adventure slaying other people’s dragon’s.
Despite what I may or may not be capable of, or have a desire to do, not every battle is mine to fight. In certain situations, the best thing I can do is be supportive but stay on the sidelines and let someone address the issue on their own. Sometimes this is because it is truly what is best for them to experience as part of their own personal journey through life, and other times it’s not that they don’t need help, but rather that I need to take care of my own life and allow someone else the opportunity to provide the necessary aid.
Not all situations are cut and dry and easy to determine the best way to proceed. Some require a considerable amount of deliberation on my part. And even once a conclusion is reached, whether or not it was the correct course of action isn’t always clear until much later on. Dwelling on such things serves no one though aside from using the information gained to make a more informed decision if a similar state of affairs ever should arise again.
In the end, all anyone can do is make the best call they can with the knowledge and experience they have on hand at the time, and then go confidently in that direction. There’s no use in second guessing yourself or wishing you could have done things differently once they’re done. This is especially true when it comes to helping someone with something that isn’t really your responsibility to handle in the first place. I think that as human beings, we do have a certain measure of obligation to assist each other, but our primary obligation is always tending to ourselves first, to ensure that our own oxygen mask is firmly in place before assisting other passengers if you will.
It really can feel like a tough decision to make at times though, especially when emotions get involved and override the logical parts of our thought processes. With so many feelings like compassion, empathy, fear, concern, guilt, obligation, pride, and love among others getting added to the mix, the right call to make is a very subjective matter. Ultimately, even if you can’t fix the problem for someone, doing something to help, no matter how small it may seem, is still an act of compassion and worrying about whether it was enough doesn’t benefit anyone, doesn’t help the situation, and is not the best use of our energy.
For the situation that inspired this dialogue with myself tonight, I had my answer before I sat down to write it, but I thought perhaps there might be others that could benefit from the sharing of my perspective on the subject. If you’re facing a decision like this and you aren’t sure what is the right choice, I hope this was in some way helpful. Helping others is important, but so is setting and respecting your own boundaries. Thanks for reading.