Are You a Speed Bump or a Green Light?

Date posted: July 4, 2014

I’m at the nail salon getting a pedicure. The customer in the seat next to me has been on her phone for a while, clearly being a sympathetic ear for the person on the other end.

“You need to eat,” I hear her say. “Do you want me to stop by with some food?”

During her conversation, she glances my way with raised eyebrows and a little smile, as if to say both “Sorry” and “Save me.” bump

She finishes her call and lets out a gentle sigh as her head drops. I turn and smile once more.

“I’ve never known an addict,” she says. “I don’t know how to help her.”

At first, I’m a bit taken aback by her statement, surprised she’s sharing this with me, a total stranger, but I trust that God, the Universe, Source, our guides, place us right where we need to be.

“Gosh, that must be incredibly difficult,” I say, knowing I’m opening the door for her to share more.

We talk for a bit about her struggles with this acquaintance, and how she has tried to help her by inviting her to church, offering to drive her to a hospital for treatment, and bringing her food.

“I told her I’d stop by today, but I have so much else that I need to do.”

“Well, why not tell her you’re not able to come by after all?” I ask.

“Because when she drinks, she tends to not eat. So I’m thinking if I bring her food, maybe she won’t drink.”

“Do you mind if I share what I just heard you say?”

“Sure,” she says.

“It sounds like you want to bring her food in hopes she’ll stop drinking so you no longer have to worry about how to save her. So you’re hoping by feeding her that it will make your discomfort will go away.”

She pauses for barely a second. “Yup. I think you’re right.”

The very brief pause tells me that that’s her soul speaking, and the soul speaks the truth.

“Can I offer you a different perspective?”

“OK,” she says.

“What if your continued help, rescue, and fire extinguishing is actually acting as a speed bump on her spiritual journey instead of a green light? What if the best way you could help her — and you in the process — is by stepping aside so she can proceed?”

“You mean I could actually help her more by not being there for her?”

“Yup. Imagine her traveling down her path and there you are as an obstacle in the road. Step aside, and she moves along. Stay there and she’ll either keep running into you or take forever trying to figure out how to get around you. Be a green light and step aside. If she wants your help in making a change, then that’s a different story. But it sounds like she’s using your relationship to stay stuck.”

“Yes!” she exclaims. “That’s exactly what she’s doing. Anytime I offer to help her take action to improve her situation, she says no, but she’ll call me all the time to complain.”

I nod and smile. “You’re a speed bump.”

“Not anymore, I’m not.”

With that, she picks up the phone. I hear her say “I’m so sorry, but can’t come by with food today after all. As always, though, if you need a ride to treatment or to the hospital, let me know.”

So which are you for others? A speed bump or a green light? Could your continued support for a family member or friend actually be stalling their spiritual or emotional journey?

Share your experience by joining the conversation in the comments section below.

Until next week, keep taking those small steps to Live Out Loud.

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  1. This is such a great article Kerri. Thanks for the different perspective and the ‘aha’. Being a speed bump really helps nobody…keeping us all stuck! x

    • Thanks for joining the conversation, Debbie. I’m glad you found the post helpful! Choosing to no longer be a speed bump can be a difficult decision as it can feel like we’re abandoning someone who needs us, but perhaps they just need us in a different way. It’s important to examine your intention behind helping them. Is it entirely to improve their situation or is it also about not wanting to be uncomfortable yourself? Tricky stuff!

  2. Oh my goodness. A-ha moment! Since my dad’s passing 3.5 years ago, I have been ‘over’ helping & supporting my mother to the detriment of my own spiritual & mental health! Time to stop being a speed bump & to move aside so that she can move forward. I no longer feel guilty about being a bad daughter by planning on ‘abandoning’ her. Wow! THANK YOU!

    • You’re welcome, Liz! I’m so glad this post helped you to see that it actually serves you both for you to step aside. I always see feelings of guilt as indicators that I’m taking good care of myself. 😉

  3. Phew, I know what you mean! I’ve encountered folks folks that before.
    This lady you met at the nail salon mentioned ‘church’.
    Some of my Catholic & Christan friends told me the church is big on ‘guilt trips’

    • Rosey, we can be pretty good on sending ourselves on a guilt trip, too! Sometimes we really need to let someone have their experience so we can have ours.

  4. This article shone huge spot light on a muddled situation. In this instance it is ME who is leaning on a friend, who is providing speed bump, after speed bump. Thanks for sharing this insight and your wisdom. (:

    • You’re welcome, Jen! Thanks for joining the conversation. That’s pretty powerful for you to realize that your speed bump friend may actually not be helping despite her good intentions. <3

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