Some people can benefit from your help. Some people can’t. Here’s how to tell the difference...
Some years ago I went to a seminar about relationships. The speaker’s mantra was, “Avoid the drains.”
By “drains” he meant a certain type of negative person in your life. A “drain” is a person who, like a drain, sucks you into a downward spiral. A drain sucks you dry. A drain leaves you empty. A drain drains you. They drain your emotions, drain your peace, drain your spiritual life, drain your mental life, drain your time, drain your money. They are drains.
The interesting thing is that there are different kinds of drains.
One kind is the whiner drain. This person does nothing but complain. They complain about their health, about the weather, about other people. They blame others all the time, and their blaming and complaining drains you dry because you feel you must listen to their whining. They’ve spotted you as someone who will give them sympathy. The drains are good at that. They know how to latch on to the sympathetic people and suck them in. The whiner drain makes you realize they have serious problems and they will drain you with their complaining so that eventually you are worried about them all the time.
But the whiner drain will never do anything about their problems — and the really strange thing is they don’t really want you to do anything about their problems either. That’s because they like to complain. They actually like being miserable. The sooner you realize this about the whiner drain and avoid the drain, the better off you will be.
Then there is the arguer drain. The arguer drain is always looking for a fight. He’s always looking for someone to disagree with because he gets a buzz from being right. Stop and think. The arguer drain doesn’t actually want to win the fight. You’ll discover this when you agree with him. He’ll stop for a moment, not sure what to do about you agreeing with him. There will be a pause then he’ll start another argument. He’s the arguer drain. He argues because that’s how he gets his attention. If get sucked into the arguer drain you will find yourself obsessed with thinking up how to answer him and how to get the better of him. Don’t go there. Avoid the drains.
The third type of drain is the self-pitying drain. They are like the complainer, but they’re fare more manipulative. They wallow in their self pity and put on a mournful and sad expression. If you ask how they are they will pretend they are okay, but their self pitying look says it all. They are sucking you in. They want your sympathy. They want you to do something for them. They want you to cheer them up. But they’re the self-pitying drain. They don’t really want to be cheered up. They don’t want their problem to be solved. They get attention with their self-pity. They wouldn’t know how to live without their self-pity. They want to suck you in with you sympathy and good will. Don’t go there. Avoid the drains.
A fourth type of drain is the angry drain. The angry drain is usually also the self-righteous drain. They stand with their nose in the air and are angry with the rest of the world for being so sinful, so depraved, so selfish and proud. They are the angry drain. They will draw you in and invite you to share their anger and their accusation of others. They want you to participate in their anger and share their self-righteousness. If you listen to them you will be drawn in and soon you will share their anger, their fear and their suspicion of others. Don’t go there. Avoid the drains.
What to do about the drains? My advice to avoid the drains may sound harsh and unpastoral. (What? You a priest and you are telling others not to help those who are clearly in need of help?)
Yes, and here’s why: because the drains don’t want to be helped. They are happy being miserable. They really would not know what to do is you solved all their problems for them.
How to avoid the drains? Don’t be nasty or unkind. Don’t treat them badly or exclude them. There is a simple trick to avoid the drains.
When they complain, when they argue, when they indulge in self pity, when they are angry, when they are demanding, do one thing: Listen politely and kindly to their problem and then ask, “Well, what are you going to do about that?”
This simple question forces them to take responsibility for the problem. If they come up with a plan of action, roll up your sleeves and volunteer to help them take action.
If they do this they are not really a drain.
If they do not come up with a plan of action you will not have to do anything to avoid them.
Because they will avoid you.