Q: After I broke up with my boyfriend, he said some really awful things to me. It got to the point where I would be scared to pick up the phone, and I couldn’t eat or sleep. Eventually I got over it, but he’s still crazy about me and now he’s really depressed. He is anorexic right now and wears nothing but black and sometimes paints his nails black when he feels super depressed. I know he’s hurt because of me (he tells me all the time), and I feel so terrible. I just want to help, but I’m dating someone else now. I’ve been praying and praying about it, but what can I do?

adropI can tell why you’re hurt and scared for your ex-boyfriend. When someone you care about is depressed, especially when you feel responsible for their pain, it gnaws at your heart too. Let me release you from the guilt you’re feeling by reminding you what I’m sure you already know: You are not responsible for his depression or anorexia, or anything else he’s suffering from right now.

There are two factors to a person’s happiness. The first is the circumstances he or she faces in life, but the second—and more important—is how he or she chooses to respond to those circumstances. Your ex is a big boy, and he is responsible to choose how he’ll respond to the things that hurt him. I hope that doesn’t come across as insensitive. I do care deeply about his well-being. I just want you to see that you are released from being responsible for his feelings and actions! Continue to pray that he will choose to go to God with his hurt (if he’s a Christian), and if he doesn’t know God, you can definitely pray that he’ll allow God to turn his life around. But it’s not your place to babysit him or even to take him on as a missionary project. You need to distance yourself from him indefinitely to give him room to heal.

I mean this with all sincerity and compassion: no matter how he acts, talks, threatens, pleads or ignores, you have to understand that you are not responsible for his feelings or actions. He (and only he) is. Why am I so adamant about that? Because I sense he is using guilt to manipulate you into feeling sorry for him. And, Lord forbid, if he actually did do anything to hurt himself, if you allow yourself to feel responsible for him now, imagine how guilty you would feel then.

So to sum it up, sis, I’d encourage you to continue praying for him, be polite when you happen to see him, but don’t go out of your way to see or talk to him. Do everything you can to minimize the drama that has mushroomed by doing nothing. No heart-to-heart talks, apologies, telling him you’re worried about him—nothing. Just move on with your life so that he can do the same. That’s ultimately the kindest (though perhaps hardest) thing to do.

I wish you the best in your new relationship, and pray that you are seeking to put Christ first in every area of it!

Love,

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