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Sometimes You Just Have To Say Good Bye

When I was in graduate school, I was lucky to be grouped with a fellow intern who I'll call Jason. Not lucky as in blessed to have a friend who I enjoyed spending time with. Lucky as in fortunate to learn what I should stay away from.

I'm not going to attempt to be generous in my recollection of Jason. He was a prototypical user, someone whose idea of being a good friend was gracing you with his good looks over lunch in exchange for you picking up the tab.

Like me, Jason didn't have much money. But he still wanted to live like he did. Rather than rent a dormitory room on campus for $350 a month, he chose an $800 apartment that was a 15-minute drive from the clinic where we were doing our internship. A 15-minute drive might not seem like a big deal until you know that Jason didn't have a car. Yup, he had the gall to choose a fancier place to live with the expectation that he could rely on fellow interns to drive him to and from the clinic.

For months, I shared driving duties for Jason with two other interns. Though I felt some resentment over getting back to my room an hour later on nights when I drove Jason home, I couldn't imagine him walking the commute during winter months in Chicago.

One evening as our shift was about to end, Jason sauntered up to me, hand extended for a fist bump, and said, "You got my lift tonight, BK?" He hadn't asked me for a drive that evening prior to that moment, and I had already committed to meeting a friend in the opposite direction, so I told him that I was sorry that I couldn't.

True to past form, he tried to guilt me into breaking my other commitment and helping him out. But I held firm, as I was tired of feeling used, and when Jason realized that he wasn't getting a lift from me that evening, he snorted in disgust and declared that I had screwed him.

I don't know how Jason got home that night, but his last words reverberated in my head over the next few days as I considered how I felt about his anger and accusation that I had done him wrong.

It occurred to me that this and other times that Jason had gotten angry, his anger wasn't caused by something that I had done to him. He was upset over things that I wouldn't do for him. A simple distinction, but it was an enormous light bulb that flicked on in my 23-year old head. It was a moment of realization that I didn't owe people like him anything, that I could give myself permission to wish them well but stay clear of them.

This may seem like common sense, but when you're looking to be helpful, when you're looking to be a good friend, it isn't so obvious to you when someone with entitlement syndrome is pushing you to a quicker death by using you up.

I think that most will agree that this type of selfishness stems from ways in which people have been neglected or abused in the past. In Jason's case specifically, I attribute his sense of entitlement to him losing his father at a young age; I could see the little things that he didn't seem to be aware of, things that a thoughtful parent strives to teach his or her child. Like filling up the gas tank of a friend's car if that friend has been kind enough to lend it to you. I don't think anyone taught Jason the Golden Rule, and with no shortage of fans who admired his height and good looks, I guess he somehow came to feel that those around him existed for his use.

It's noble to strive to be generous and compassionate. But let's remember that we are like batteries. Slowly, we are being drained of our energy, and for those of us who are incredibly blessed, we won't be completely drained until we've lived through about 30,000 days. So at some point, I think it's important for us to consider who we give our limited energy to.

A lovely aspect of energy is that people who are thoughtful and deeply care about you can actually give you energy. Maybe not ATP energy for cellular metabolism, but real feelings of warmth that lift you up, not beat you down. Which is hopefully what you provide for those you deeply care about, even without knowing that you are doing this for them.

Whenever you are not sure about how you are using your time and who you are with, ask yourself:

How do I feel after doing this? How do I feel after spending time with this person? Do I feel cared for and inspired to be my best self? Or do I feel tired, frustrated, sad, angry, or used?

Your gut answers to these questions should help you make wise choices on who and what you spend your energy on.

If someone is angry with you and you have made a sincere attempt to understand, apologize, and create peace, if he or she continues to try to make you feel bad, you can give yourself permission to minimize or eliminate time spent together. If you continue to tango, you will accelerate your loss of energy and provide more fuel for these people to continue with destructive thinking and behavior.

A person who wants peace will look to restore peace. Someone who is looking to be angry will stay angry and try to keep you engaged in conflict.

We can't be responsible for how everyone else feels about their lives. We can help, encourage, and support where possible and where our energy is gratefully received, but where we are left feeling attacked, belittled, used, and debilitated despite our best intentions, we need to send good wishes and refocus our energy on people who are looking for peace.


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Dear Dr. Kim,

I just wanted to write you a note of appreciation for your sincere, caring articles. The article on "watching who you give your energy to," is a blessing and filled with a balance of wisdom and love.

Recently I have purchased some of your green products along with other items of interest and have found them to be all that you say they are; which to me is another example of integrity.

Again, thank you for all you do. I am going to pass on these words of wisdom to several of my friends who I know will appreciate them as much as I.

Wishing you all the Best,


The link to this article came into my inbox today, and boy, it was exactly what I needed to read today. I am going through some relationship problems where my significant other has been very depressed, and out of the blue ignored, then verbally insulted me and says we should break up so that I won't be dragged down too. It has been a heartwrenching situation. I took a few days to recoup at a friend's, and will be going back home tonight to talk. I know that his depression is the root cause for his behavior, which makes me want to stay, but if the relationship is going to drain my energy too, maybe it would be best to walk away. I have tried many times this year to be a positive, uplifting person for him, but I know deep down he has to answer the call to seeing the light of things and get help for himself. I struggle with depression myself, so it might not be healthy for me to stay. I decided to copy a lot of the sentences from the article into my phone so I can open it whenever I need to see that as a reminder. Thank you so much for posting, this really helps. It still doesn't make the heartache go away, but at least it helps to see things more clearly. At least maybe if I am firm and don't indulge in his behavior, he might make an effort to deal with the depression and we can be together. I am a very sad and confused girl indeed, but at least I can reflect on those questions over the next few days to help me decide what to do.

Thank you Dr. Kim. You really clarify for me why I've felt used and drained and angry about other ppl using me for their benefit. And showing me what I can do: make distance, wish them well, good luck on that, ........

I had to let go of almost all my family after my mother died. It was the only way for me to become even remotely sane. I didn't know until her illness and death just how dysfunctional my family was, how codependent we all were and how negative the patterns were. I would gladly have worked through counseling to try and save some or all of the relationships... but I was seen as the only one who needed fixing. This despite most of my life being spent in therapy! Yes, I needed fixing and part of the fix was letting go of my family. I won't lie- it's been incredibly difficult and I grieve for the loss of the people I loved (and still love) and for the family I *thought* I had. But there was no way to work with these folks so... I just had to move on. I am grateful for the revelation and for all the wonderful friends who are now my family and for the peace of mind that I do enjoy now that I never had before. It was worth it but wow, it still hurts...

I am going through the exact same thing right now. My Mother was my best friend for the last 25 years and she died in April 2011 . Things haven't been the same with my family ever since. I have two sisters, I am 58, one is 59 and one 60. They both hate me now. I have always been the nice sister, the peace maker. I live in Hawaii and they live in Calif. so I not around and have become their target. They judge me when they have no right. I feel like I'm always having to defend my self as they slander me, but they hang up or don't want to hear the facts and assume I am quack job, because I care about politics, they assume I am trying to get a free house because the bank that is foreclosing on us never owned the loan. They won't give me the chance to say , I don't want to make payment to a fraudulent bank and I don't want them stealing my home. I have been sick with two collapsed lungs and am now on oxygen, instead of caring about me they accuse me of not talking care of myself. I guess I'm am going to have to say goodbye too. If I knew that my life would have ended up here like this, I never would have believed it. It is more than sad, it is a tragedy. My sister screamed at me the other day on the phone and then hung up on me like she was so full of hate for me . I am still shaken up by it.

I have a similar situation and it is very difficult to say goodbye. I have not really said Good Bye; however, I am keeping my distance with three toxic members of my family. Before my mother's passing, I was chosen to take care of both my parents' affairs and for the past almost three years I have done so. Three members of my family (who didn't help at all with my parents' care) are now doubting my intentions. I have a deep faith in God and am blessed and grateful for everything I give and receive. It seems to me the ones that do the least to help complain the most. I am doing my best to honor my parent's wishes and one brother helps me to see the reality of these three family members. Like I said, it is hard to say good bye because we were raised to care for one another and its hard to believe that they feel the way they do about me. Did they feel this way all along or just after my mother's passing? Oh, well. I love myself enough to protect myself from these toxic relationships and know that I am a good person. Thank you for your comment which gave me a chance to say what I've been feeling to someone who doesn't know me. Have a good day and a wonderful New Year.

Hi All, yes, this is such a difficult subject. Thanks to everyone for sharing. I, too, had to say good bye to all - every one - of my family members, about 15 years ago, after a car accident I'd been in. It wasn't that they'd changed - I love them now, as I did then - but alas, I did. It was only when I was injured to the extent that I was that my eyes were opened to the fact that I simply didn't have the energy to deal with these toxic situations any more. It is very upsetting - I struggled for so many years with this decision. The toxic childhood had also led to my being in a non-loving adult relationship: or, as Dr. Ben Kim put it: "I love you as long as you do everything for me. I totally deserve (am entitled to) this and if you don't wait on me hand and foot, you are no good, etc. " So finally, I am still took years and is even an ongoing process of adjustment now, but it has led to a life filled with many beautiful friendships, or soul family. Blessings to all, keep your chin up and choose yourself first - in a healthy way - so that you may truly blossom into the gifted individual you are.

I live in Spring, Texas; which is close to Houston. I am looking forward to my middle son's back surgery being over. He was diagnosed with Scoliosis last spring; he as a 59° curvature in his spine; this was compounded by his growth spurt of 6” in approximately 8 ½ months. This time last year Sean, was 5’8” he is now 6’2”. The doctor will be fusing his spine in 2 locations and placing two titanium rods on both sides of his spine; once this is completed, Sean will be 6’5” or 6’6”. The surgery is a 4 to 6 hour surgery and he and I will be in the hospital all next week. He will be out of school for 4 to 6 weeks. We will also be celebrating my Mother's 80th birthday on Saturday. Please keep my son and my Mom in your prayers.

Thank you,

Susan Mays


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