Dear ones, I have a friend who calls me many times a week to complain or ask for favors and this drains my energy. Whenever I spend time away from her I feel relaxed and good. The reason I keep in touch is because of her children. I think to cut her out of my life, but then I feel guilty. She keeps saying that I’m her best friend, though I don’t feel the same way at all. Her energy drains mine, my head says cut her out, but my heart doesn’t say the same thing. What should I do?

—Faith, Canada


Dear Faith,

Admittedly, it is sometimes difficult to know how to help others. You’ve indicated that your sense of commitment to this person lies with her children, not with herself. Can you, perhaps, limit your involvement to the children? Their hobbies, their education, health etc.?

As to complaining, there’s a fool proof way to get that to stop: it’s called BEING POSITIVE! Given your history with her, it is now chronic, so you must be patient but it WILL work. Everytime she complains respond with a positive suggestion or point of view. Think always of the “cup being half full.” A bright, cheery outlook will, with calm, steady repetition, drive her negativity either underground or will actually help her. Begin this technique slowly and test it out: how best to “deploy” your positive thinking “app.”

A word of caution on the use of this “app” : don’t try to solve her problems with suggestions, rather, just be positive. She has to solve her own problems and no doubt she’ll have a reason why any of your suggestions have either been tried or won’t work. So, instead, be positive. “Well, it could be worse. Think of those who have much bigger problems.” (At least have this at your ready disposal.) Also, another great aspect of this “app” is to say little, “gee too bad,” and then immediately change the subject to someone wonderful or positive in your life, or around you, or that you read or heard about.

As to favors, well, begin slowly to decline the opportunity. Besides, consider that if someone asks you a favor that you can do easily, why not help them if it seems useful to do so? Otherwise, just prepare yourself with the courage and practice at least sometimes saying, “Golly, if I could I would but I just don’t have the time or don’t have a clue how to do that. Sorry.” If you can make an alternate suggestion, then great.

But it is important to tune into whether your reluctance is YOUR issue, or really HER excessive co-dependence. Don’t be a doormat but then don’t deny someone just because it’s inconvenient or seems an imposition. Saints are made by self-sacrifice! But to do so requires devotion and self-giving, not to a person but to God in that form. See the difference? And, if you do acquiesce, be cheerful about it! You all but negate the “good kama” of doing good deeds if you are resentful in doing it!

Remember: guilt, like physical pain, has a genuine purpose. In the case of physical pain, it alerts us to dealing with illness or pending illness; in the case of guilt, it is designed to tweak our conscience. There’s nothing inherently wrong with feeling guilty. It’s not the guilt that is the problem: it might be trying to tell you to do the right thing and not to resent the demands of “what is right” so much!

So this question of guilt or of fulfilling her unending requests for favors is trickier. You don’t want to enable her co-dependence, yet you also don’t want to enable your own lack of active compassion. So experiment and see. Try to choose deflecting or declining requests that are more obviously not real but that are merely for her personal convenience and which she could either do without or do herself, or find others to do if in fact genuine.

Last but most important: pray for guidance. After meditating and becoming calm, then offer your prayer, your sincere desire for higher guidance, up to God or to God through the guru (or saint). Feel for an answer especially in your heart. Be open for the possibility that guidance may not be convenient or fulfilling of your subconscious desire, ok?

Blessings to you:

Nayaswami Hriman