You cannot save people

“You cannot save people. You can only love them.”Anaïs Nin

It was not until a few days ago that I realized how much truth hid beneath these two simple statements. I also understood that I’ve been trying to save the people I love for as long as I can remember.

The truth is that we all have our demons. I know I have mine. But, at the same time, we know that the people we love struggle against similar demons, and at times we might be inclined to try to save them. After all, it’s our duty.

But the thing is, not every battle can be fought with someone holding our hand. Some battles, we are meant to fight alone, to try to conquer our fears and insecurities.

In real life, the damsel in distress can’t be saved. She may want to, and those who love her may feel the need to respond to this, but she can only be loved. Because the demons she wants to get rid off are inside her soul, so deep that no one can get in and slay them. That’s the irony of it all: only love helps her conquer her demons, at her own terms. She alone can walk into the darkest corners of her soul and get rid of what’s keeping her from truly loving herself.

You can only love people, and that is more than enough, more than anyone should ever ask for. Love gives you strength and courage, and if you use those properly, you end up loving yourself, you end up becoming the best possible version of yourself.


93 thoughts on “You cannot save people

  1. So true. We can’t save people from themselves. But still we try. Or I still do. I don’t know how to stop trying. The love is there too, surrounding all that, trying to be a safety net so they don’t fall too far. But still I try. I wish I could let go. To just love and let that be enough. I wish I could.

  2. The sad truth, isn’t it? Thank you for sharing this; it’s beautiful. I think I’ve been discovering this recently as well, since a friend of mine just started chemo and another is suffering from her anxiety. I can’t save them, but love does make a big difference, doesn’t it? Sometimes that’s all people need. Everyone just wants (and needs) to feel loved. You’re a very talented writer. Excellent post!

  3. Sometimes love helps, sometimes it doesn’t. It is what it is. Some people truly don’t want help, they just want to be left alone to do their thing. They want people to stop annoying them with their advice and help. That’s their right and their choice. We have to respect people and what they are going through and how they wish to get through it…or not. We are each alone and we have our own path to walk. A lot of times we need to mind our own business because people often make things worse with their attention and words. You don’t have to love people you just have to accept the fact that you don’t know what’s best for anyone else and that other people are free to make their own choices, even if we don’t understand them or agree with them. We need to respect the right of others to live lives we wouldn’t chose for ourselves. Not everyone is asking for or wants help.

    • Agreed. Because some people’s demons are so toxic that no matter how much you love them, you end up spiraling down their black hole as they pull you down with them. I don’t try to fix people any more.

  4. This is a beautiful post! Love is always more than enough. We have to empower the damsel in distress to save herself. It’s not easy because we are a “fix it” society and crave simple answers. Love is never simple. Its actually the hardest one that you can make but it is the one that brings true healing.

  5. And then there are times when even love will not help her conquer her own demons. Yet, the test of love is that loving is all it knows and keeps loving even though it’s ineffectual in freeing the one it loves out of pain. Love cares, love heals, love wants to share its object’s hurt but it is also the essence of love to just keep loving. That’s it. That’s what love is.

  6. In my past, I did not believe in signs, messages, words deposited with such perfect timing that it’s hard not to believe in some sort of divine intervention. But, I have come to recognize these “inspirations from the Universe”, now, and I want to thank you for offering me this sign, today.

  7. I really like the whole acceptance of individual and shared demons, and that it, to some degree, doesn’t matter as long as you’ve got people who love and care for you around you. Really awesome piece!

  8. True love is always enough to save! Although because of our postmodern thinking we stopped believing in absolutes. Therefore we don’t believe in absolute love, or true love. We also think that we can “do” – and our actions become absolutes. Which is not true. However, Love “is”, and if you embrace Love, you are saved and you have the premisses to save others!
    How would you integrate 1Corinthians chapter 13 in this philosophy?

  9. Sometimes the greatest act of love we can do for someone is step back and let them learn to stand on their own two feet. Sometimes they do, sometimes they fall down. Life can be unkind, but so to, can too much support. It’s a good lesson to learn. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on it.

  10. It’s true but as the saying goes love can move mountains and we express love in different ways and hopefully by that a person can be saved. :)

  11. I totally agree. In the past I’ve tried too hard to help friends and family. But I learned quickly that it’s their battle to fight.

  12. I agree that we can’t fight someone else’s demons, but we don’t have to let them do it alone. Sometimes that is enough to encourage a loved one to continue the fight.

  13. I learned this, of course, the hard way. Many years of trying to save my mom, and then friends and lovers, and in the end, myself. Because you are right- love of self and from others can give us the strength to be ok with looking inside and seeing what needs changing. I try my very best to just accept and love people as they are in this very moment- faults and all. It is not easy to watch people you love struggle, but you love them through it and sometimes that makes all the difference.

  14. This is all true. It is a shame though. If people could see, besides love, if someone truly offers you a benefit why not take the chance and see a different or another way?

  15. People can only save themselves. If they don’t choose to save themselves, there is nothing that you can do to help. It feels horrible to stop fighting for them, but they have to fight the battle themselves. All you can do is encourage them. Good topic.

  16. I think you can save people, but not so much on purpose but by accident, and simply by loving them. Of course, there are also the cases where all that we can do for those we love is not enough, and they are left to fight for themselves. But, at least in personal experience, it’s a bit easier fighting for myself knowing that there is someone there, than fighting for myself with no one present.

  17. But the thing is, not every battle can be fought with someone holding our hand. Some battles, we are meant to fight alone, to try to conquer our fears and insecurities.

    ^^^ My favorite part.

  18. I tell my loved ones I don’t want them to save me, I want them to stand beside me while I save myself. I think that job must be harder than mine, because it takes an incredible amount of patience and love. As always, you’ve stated this so well.

  19. There are two people I have desperately tried to save, but you’re right, I can only love them, and hope that through that love they are given enough strength to conquer their demons on their own.

    This simple short yet powerfully evocative article covers a very broad area. It can apply to anyone in any circumstance.

  20. I have experienced this firsthand. When a loved one is facing life changing challenger and struggles, they must find the solutions for themselves. You can’t solve these for them–all you can offer is your love and support.

  21. Wonderful topic and very nicely only wish is for it to be easier to do for us who want to do the saving!! I have a niece I have to do that with and every day is a struggle. Thanks for the reminder!!

  22. This blog really hit home for me. For many years, I have tried to ‘change’ my mother into the person I wanted her to be, the mother I never had to no avail. Now she is frail with dementia and I love her but I have to let go which is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. The love is still there but the dream is gone.

  23. WOW! I love love love this!! Truly beautiful and inspirational piece of writing. ‘You can only love people, not save them’ – I will remember that :) I especially loved about how you wrote – how she has to slay the demons on her own and on her own terms and your love can help her, but she has to do it herself, you can’t do it for her. So true. Very profound piece of writing. :)

  24. It took the end of my second marriage to learn this truth. But since I have learned it, my life has become something beautiful. I now offer people my support and encouragement, but feel no responsibility what so ever to FIX them. I now know that it is impossible for me to do that.
    This lesson to me was the beginning of my freedom.

  25. Eloquently said. And it is a hard lesson to learn, believe me. All we can do is love people and be there for them, not control them or fight all of their battles for them. And we certainly can’t change them.

  26. I learned a long time ago that you can’t save people because no one could save me. It took me many years to become my own knight in shining armor, and with sword in hand, hack my bloody way into my soul and slay my demons. Yes, if you want a job done right, you gotta do it yourself. :)

  27. It’s hard to *just* love when the ones you love, and whose love you need, keep hurting themselves and you. It’s like watching babies with scissors, running full speed toward you. This was a good reminder for me, but brother, it ain’t easy.

  28. very well said. Although i have always known that you cannot save people, the struggle to save my self has been a much harder one. Finding peace is not easy when it comes to ones own self.

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  30. So many people could save themselves so much heartache and frustration if they simply understood this concept. No one can save us but ourselves. Those who love and support us on that journey remind us that we are “worth” saving.

  31. Some consider it a sad thing that we can’t save people. But I consider it comforting actually. I mean, as a Christian it is my job to spread the gospel. But it isn’t my job to ensure they receive it into their hearts; that’s the Holy Spirits job. That responsibility isn’t on my plate, and Thank God for that. I would fail miserably if it was my job to change the hearts of men.

  32. I’ve felt helpless at times when I’ve tried to help people close to me and they don’t seem to listen, but they keep on doing what leads to self-destruction. It’s hard to be near a person who doesn’t want to change. Prayer is the best way to help, I’ve found. To ask with faith for God’s help, because He wants that person to be happy and healthy even more than we do. It feels impossible sometimes but God specializes in doing what is impossible.

  33. Especially when your friend has a mental illness love and support can only go so far but the battle is between the illness and the sufferer, and is the sufferer willing to do the off camera dirty work to defeat their demons, the choice is theirs

  34. Your words speak truly. The thing that is painful, is sometimes loving them hurts those around you. Sometimes you love someone who will not even try to save themselves and that makes your friends and family hurt for you and because of you. Sometimes loving means letting go.

  35. I did not read all of the comments so I may be repeating here (there are so many of them on this subject), but because I am a bible student I have to take God’s advice and that is don’t just love the people close to you. We need to love everyone including our enemies. I won’t quote scripture, but it does seem difficult to understand this concept until it is thought out properly or better yet, practiced. By putting it into practice, we will find it true.

    Forgiveness can heal. Sincere prayer (focused thought) can heal. Assistance and caring can heal. Mercy can heal etc., but true love includes all of these and in the end is the only thing that truly heals.

    I always enjoy listening to the lyrics of Beautiful by Carole King:
    “You’ve got to get up every morning with a smile on your face
    And show the world all the love in your heart
    Then people gonna treat you better
    You’re gonna find, yes, you will
    That you’re beautiful as you feel”

    The important thought is “show the world” exactly as God tells us to Do!

    Love the post!

  36. I guess that’s true at the core. We can’t save people ourselves. We can teach them Jesus’ Gospel and lead them to The Light, but ultimately it’s a choice we each much make.

    If someone is an addict, has anger issues, is Bipolar, is mean, is an alcoholic we can only stage an intervention and bring them to help, but ultimately they have to choose. We can pray and instruct, but we can change somebody.

    When I was young I tried to change people. Later in life I just kept believing they would change. Those are harmful behaviors. If you are around a negative person or a person who detracts you from God’s work, try to point them in the right direction, but if they can’t change, you have to move on.

    When I was young I was “engaged” to a man who was an alcoholic. He was hard core. He could not stop. He was fine when he wasn’t drinking, but we he did he could spend our all money in an hour. I stood by him because I loved him and between ages 21-26 I went through AA meeting right alongside him. He would quit for a while, but once he took that first sip again, it was done. I tried and my ex wasn’t and isn’t a bad person…

    All I can do is pray for him and forgive him.

  37. I agree to an extent, we cant fix people, we cant save them either, but we can lend a helping hand and kind words. I also believe that sometimes our love and support does help the ones I love face those demons and win that internal battle. Regardless of the outcome I know we simply shouldn’t give up, we should always try to save people and help as much as we can!

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