I read a great blog by Donald Miller last week and I agree with what he says but I’d like to add to it because I think people might take it in a direction he didn’t mean for them to.
Don says don’t hang around people who are negative, cynical, etc, because you will become like them. I think that’s totally true and should be considered when picking your closest friends. But when it comes to helping people, the needy people Jesus calls us to help are probably needy partly because of their unhelpful thought patterns.
We each have a well of energy to draw from before our character actually begins to degrade. I’d say don’t help someone if your well has run dry. But we’re called to help the widows and orphans (or whatever are the modern day equivalent) and I think we should do that as long as we still have the juice.
Addicts are hard. A few years ago I met a friend of a friend who in a moment of regret told me he was ready to leave all his drugs and pornography and alcohol behind. I was so proud of him that together we threw his magazines in the dumpster and I replaced all his alcohol with ice cream and I spent some time getting job opportunities set up for him. It drained me, especially when he backed out of the job apps. My mentor had been encouraging me to find people who wanted to be discipled. So one day I told the addict guy I’d been giving a lot for him and if he wanted to help me out he could start studying the Bible with me. He blew up and shouted me out of his house for calling him ungrateful. And I’d bet ya he went out to the dumpster and dug up his magazines and drugs. It shook me up. I’m still not sure I’ve recovered from it. These days I’m less dimwitted about matters like that, but I’m also pretty jaded about helping some people.
That was helping too much.
But there are a lot of people who are just lonely and would love to get dinner with someone once a month. In fact sometimes I think those meetings improve my character.
So here is my addition to Don’s advice about hanging out with people who are negative. Help if it bends you, but not it it breaks the help right out of you. And don’t help if it hurts you more than it helps them. The question to ask yourself is this, “Am I increasing the sum of wellness in the world?” For that is the goal, to make this kingdom more like God would like it to be. And who knows, maybe those folks will start to become more positive, just by hanging out with you.