Updated on 04.13.09

The Little Benefits of Trying

Trent Hamm

I’m proud of my brother Mark.

When I was a little boy, I adored him. He was a great older brother. He was about ten years older than me, yet he was willing to come home from a day of high school and play with me in the sandbox. I have a very vivid memory of being really sick on the school bus when I was in kindergarten or first grade or so. I threw up in a trash can and, in the process, broke my glasses. Mark, who was sitting in the back of the bus with his friends, could have done nothing, but he strode up to the front of the bus, picked me up, gave me a hug, and carried me back to the back of the bus with him and kept me on his lap until we got home.

Mark left home for several years when I got older, living in another part of the country, and when he moved back to our area, it felt much like a different person came back instead of Mark. I didn’t know how to relate to this “new” Mark at all and for years it really bothered me. Of course, now I realize that part of it was me growing older, not just him, but at the time, all I felt was a huge gulf where I didn’t feel one before.

Since then, Mark has made a lot of mistakes in his life. Some were completely of his own choosing, some were forced on him by a very unlucky hand dealt to him by life. He missed out on a great career opportunity and a woman who really loved him and eventually he found himself without a job, unable to support his two children, and trying to cut himself off from his family and everyone that cared about him.

At some point, he hit bottom. I don’t know what exactly transpired in his life or in his heart at that point, but over the last two years, he has picked himself up, dusted himself off, and started trying to make things right. He has built a good relationship with his daughters – and they seem better off than I’ve ever seen them. He’s upgraded his living quarters substantially and has made a beautiful home for his family. In his career, he’s gone from getting his job back on the strictest of probation to being one of the most trusted people in his workplace. He’s also started making better choices with his own health – I can simply see more life in him than I’ve seen in (literally) decades. He’s also done quite a lot to rebuild his relationship with his father, which is something very, very important to both of them.

Mark will most likely never read this blog post. He also likely has very little idea of how I feel about him – in truth, his life is such that it probably never crosses his mind. That doesn’t change the fact that my opinion of him has greatly changed over the last year or two. Not because he’s succeeded at everything he’s tried, but because he’s actually trying – and he’s sincere about it.

What has that changed? Here’s a great example: just last weekend, I was visiting my parents and Mark stopped by with his daughters. At one point, Mark was outside alone with Joe and his daughters and another nephew. Two years ago, this would have alarmed me – I would have immediately went outside to keep an eye on my son. Now? I didn’t worry about it at all.

If Mark had asked for help two years ago, I would have been very hesitant to help him. To put it simply, I didn’t believe he was trying to better himself. If he had asked me to borrow $50, I would have simply refused because, quite frankly, I didn’t believe that the money would actually have helped him or his daughters.

Today, if Mark asked me to borrow $50, I would hand him that fifty dollar bill and tell him to pay me back only after everything else is paid off – in other words, a gift.

What’s the difference? I can see that he is trying, and when someone is making a sincere effort, I’m much, much more willing to help – in fact, I often desire to help. I know that I’m not alone in this difference, either.

Two years ago, I would have hesitated to be a character reference for Mark. Now? I’d make the phone call myself to vouch for the person he’s becoming.

So what can be taken away from this story?

Trying and flailing is better than not trying at all. Mark isn’t perfect. He makes little parenting mistakes sometimes, for example. The difference is that he’s there and he’s engaged with his kids, and that’s 90% of the work. He’s trying. He loves his children and it shows when he interacts with them, even if the interaction isn’t perfect – and those kids respond to that love.

People around you recognize your positive efforts. I see Mark perhaps once every two months, yet I’ve seen these changes. They’re as clear to me as night and day. Now, when I talk about Mark with my family and friends, my remarks and feelings are positive, whereas earlier I wouldn’t have said much at all. His positive effort isn’t just changing his own life, it’s changing how other people see him, even though he’s not perfect.

Similarly, people around you are more willing to help if you show a willingness to help yourself. As I said above, I’d be quite willing now to help my brother, whereas two years ago, I would have avoided the opportunity like the plague. This isn’t just true for me – many other people in Mark’s life feel the same. He’s suddenly welcome in places where he wouldn’t have been welcome a few years ago. People say positive things about him instead of negative things. If he needed a helping hand right now, there would be an abundance of hands there instead of just a few.

Furthermore, people who see you trying will often do things you don’t ever see to help you out. You get invitations that you wouldn’t have received before. People speak positively of you as a reference when you’re applying for a job or asking around for help. Some people might even put some of the things you need into your hands without even asking.

These ideas don’t just apply to some specific situation. They’re true for anyone who is trying to produce any positive change in their life. Your effort is seen by others – and in subtle ways, that effort is reflected in how people treat you. You get more support from the people around you and, often, people will do all sorts of subtle things to help you out.

The key thing is to try – and not be ashamed of your efforts. Perhaps today is the day to start trying yourself – and make a real start at something you want in your life.

Good luck.

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  1. Jimbo says:

    It’s pretty amazing to me that a guy like yourself who is CONSTANTLY talking about the importance of family is talking about his own brother like it’s some random third-party. This is what I don’t get about so many ppl – they are willing to almost forsake their parents and the siblings they grew up with for their children and spouses. It’s very evident that your children and wife are so incredibly important to you, but your own brother, not so much.

    Never made sense to me.

  2. Adam @ Checkbook Diaries says:

    In my opinion, trying shows a desire to succeed and improve your situation. For some reason, perception really means alot for many people. If I perceive that someone is genuinely trying and struggling, I find myself more willing to offer assistance and encouragement. But if I see someone asking for help who really doesn’t appear to be trying to help themselves very much, I’m more reluctant to accommodate them.

    This article is a good reminder to keep trying, no matter what the outcome of your efforts. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Trent, I thank you for being so open about your personal life with us. As a fellow younger brother, I know exactly how you feel about your older brother. I can say with certainty I know half of the lessons I learned came from my brother making the mistakes for me.

  4. Baker @ ManVsDebt says:

    Anything in life that I’ve done, where I really showed concentrated effort, people have opened up doors for me.

    It’s not only you, but people in general, who will go out of their way to help genuine effort. Thanks for the reminder to stick the course!

  5. Nancy says:

    Jimbo,while I can understand what you are saying you perhaps have never been burned by a family member. I have a family member that I was once very close to. We grew up together and are less than a year apart in age. However she took a very different direction in her life than I did. Behaviors that are normal and acceptable for her are not for me and I do not care to be in the mist of it all or expose my children to it. Is it how I thought things would be while I was growning up, no. Nor is it how I want it to be but it is how it turned out. Having the relation comes with too much garbage for me so it is not one I seek out any longer.

  6. Carmen says:

    Newsflash: ALL parents make mistakes. And I have always thought $50 and backyard child supervising was nothing amongst family, regardless of the relationship dynamics.

    I’m the eldest; you younger siblings have such an easy life!:)

  7. Kay says:

    The tone of this post sounds pompous.

  8. Carmen says:

    Nancy – would you feel the same if one of you were suddenly on your death bed (or worse, gone)? I’m just curious, mainly because I am incredibly sentimental about the past.

  9. Jimbo says:

    Nancy, I am sorry to hear about how things happened. My point was that ppl are generally willing to give up on their siblings (who they grew up with!) much earlier than they would with their children or their spouses. Those years of friendship growing up are forsaken way too easily I believe.

    My best friend went through a rough patch for a while and his twin sister severed ties with him without giving it a second thought – I mean that just completely boggles my mind. How can some ppl forget all those years of kinship and love so easily??

  10. IRG says:

    Ditto on Nancy’s comment to Jimbo.

    Jimbo, unless you’ve had your family put in jeopardy by another family member, you really can’t appreciate Trent’s position.

    For those of us who have, we do understand where Trent is coming from. It’s not ideal, it’s not what you’d expect, nor is it the way you’d want it to be. It just is what it is, based on the other person’s choices. That’s life.

    Also note that Trent very tactfully omitted a lot of specific details that could have explained why Trent made his choices, clearly to spare his brother any embarassment.

    Blogging always opens up a lot of stuff that many might not want to see the light of day. I’m giving Trent the benefit of the doubt that he only did this post to give credit, not cast aspersion, on his brother.

    he is, as always, honest, about his POV on this. Which is all you can ask.

    To me, Trent doesn’t condone or condemn but merely states his praise for his brother’s effort.

    That alone is more than many family members do, even when they are all still involved in each other’s lives.

    And FYI, to all these posters who keep insisting that Trend comment on the comments: Get a life. Get real. Trent has already made his comments. He does not OWE you a response. You don’t like it? Write your own articles to explore aspects, etc.

    Do you folks have any idea how long it takes to research, write and edit and post articles? If you did, you wouldn’t be expecting Trent to spend whatever little time is left responding to posts.

    It really ticks me off when people write comments that say: We’re not going to read you anymore because you don’t comment on comments.

    Please. Give some consideration to what is involved and stop thinking the world revolves around people responding to your every thought!

    You already get a free forum to post your thoughts. That should be plenty.

  11. IRG says:

    Jimbo writes and asks:
    How can some ppl forget all those years of kinship and love so easily??

    Jimbo, what makes you assume that there were years of kinship and love among siblings in the families that are referred to by posters here? And even if there were some sweet, nostalgic moments in young childhood, how does that compare when adults turn into drug addicts, alcoholics, thieves, murders, criminals, etc. who endanger the lives of others in the family, and repeatedly?

    It’s a lovely theory/idea that nothing can separate people (siblings) but real life does NOT work that way. Sometimes, you have to love from a great distance. Sometimes, you just have nothing left to give, after giving to takers for years. (I could tell you tons of heartbreaking stories of siblings who took care of other siblings in the manner you seem to support. Who then found their own families in jeopardy and lives in danger.)

    I am not speaking for Trent. But I speak from my own experience, of making a huge effort to know the children of my parents’ separate and subsequent marriages. To me, they are my brothers. Not half brothers or step brothers. I was always open to loving them and making them a part of my life.

    We never grew up together, there were age differences (significant), yet I reached out to them in many, many ways, over many years. I put my heart out there and time and again, it got broken.

    They never showed much interest in me, beyond what I could give them or do for them.

    So you know, blood relations…it means nothing.

    Life can’t be based on sentimental values but on real ones.

    There are people in my life who genuinely care for me and me for them, and their families. Life is too short to spend our time loving people who frankly don’t love themselves, let alone anyone else.

    Please don’t be so certain that all these folks writing here have quickly or easily or happily written off family members. If you read Trent’s posting carefully, you will feel his pain. Clearly there is hurt there. Nobody generally eliminates a family member without some serious thought.

  12. Todd says:

    Thanks, Trent. I really needed that post today; it helped me think some things through in my own life. It’s the very honest, human posts like this that make The Simple Dollar stand out from the rest. You’re adding good things to the world with your writing.

  13. Jimbo says:

    IRG – you haven’t gotten my point. I was not saying that there is NEVER a situation in which a person should choose to cut ties with their siblings, but that people choose to get ties with their siblings too easily. It is very obvious to me that if a person’s sibling becomes a mass murderer, the person should cut ties with him. However, it is not obvious (or fair) to me that if a person’s sibling gets into minor trouble, that it’s okay to cut ties with him.

    My point is this: people forsake their old family (siblings etc) for their new family (spouse and kids), way too easily.

    Obviously my comments are predicated on the person and his sibling having a great relationship growing up.

  14. PChan says:

    Jimbo, first of all, people can, do, and have cut ties with their spouses and their kids. Sometimes these are for trivial reasons, but more often than not they are for very good reasons (abuse, violence, using people who are close to them, theft, etc.)

    I know exactly what Trent means. When you have kids, you don’t necessarily trust anyone to watch them. If I had a drug habit or consistently demonstrated bad judgement, my sister would be fully within her rights to not want me to be alone with her kids.

    I have to say I wouldn’t be surprised at all if my sister ever chose her “new” family over me. She chose her spouse and wanted to have children (and I can’t imagine any bond stronger than a parent-child bond. Jeez–I’m pretty attached to my niece and nephew, and I’m their aunt. If I had kids? Forget about it.)

    I have a friend with a brother who is always in a bad patch. He’s in and out of jail, he steals, he gets high, he lies, and he manipulates. She’s cut off all contact because a) she’s tired of dealing with his drama b) everything is someone else’s fault and never his responsibility and c) she has kids and doesn’t want a drug-abuser anywhere near them. They were close growing up, and after ten plus years of his BS in adulthood, she felt that he used thier former closeness to manipulate her into giving him money.

    Also, Trent didn’t forsake his brother. He kept him at a distance because he felt he couldn’t relate to Mark at all and because Mark did some things that diminished Trent’s trust. He didn’t cut off contact, however. He did exersise a lot of caution around him, especially WRT to his kids. That’s not forsaking Mark; it’s just being wise.

  15. Carmen says:

    Is it really that hard to see things from more than one perspective?

    I agree with Jimbo, since in this debate we are talking about siblings who had very close and loving childhood relationships (Trent said he adored his brother as a child.)

    But I can also appreciate the opposite perspective, particularly where it is the other person who cuts the ties as another commenter mentioned. However, the circumstances would have to be very extreme, as in seriously life threatening as opposed to just leading different lifestyles with different values or religious beliefs for example, for me to consider it.

    Interesting debate.

  16. Valerie says:

    Trent, thanks for sharing this and illustrating how relationships change. You share here a universal story in life — about how a change in one family member can affect the relationship we have with all of our family members. (Think of your son and Mark; if Mark had not changed his course, your son would have had a different relationship with his uncle … and with you.)

    A personal note, I think you should share with Mark how much you looked up to him when you were younger and how proud you are of him now. Even though he may not be interested to read your blog, he surely would be interested in your voicing your respect and admiration. We all want to be loved.

  17. a loner says:

    I have been a regular follower of your blog for the past 4 months or so, read and thought replying to some of your post but being lazy or shy, wasn’t able to do so. But this post hit me right on the spot that I couldn’t resist.

    A Tragedy inflicted my family last year, even thou it is long gone but i still am suffering the remains of it. Everyday i tell myself, motivate myself to go forward but the fear of rejection outweighs my motivation. I know i am letting so many people who care for me down with my behaviour just like Mark did.

    Hopefully your post might be the injection i need, only time will tell.

    Pray for me

  18. SteveJ says:


    I agree with your basic point. Regardless of circumstances, I think part of it is the responsibility you feel towards a spouse/child vs a sibling. Am I my brother’s keeper? Well, to a degree, yes, but it’s definitely not the same level of investment. I’m sure it’s even stranger when you’re the younger sibling (I’m the eldest), neither party is used to a relationship dynamic where the younger is in a position of “power” where they can guide or even offer opinions. My mom tells me I’m always the toddler stuffing raisins in a diaper to her, much like at some base level my little brother is always the brat who broke my stuff.

    Along the responsibility lines, you chose your spouse, you made some decision that led to a child, but you didn’t have any control over your siblings. And frankly I don’t want to control my brothers’ lives to the same degree that I want to guide and affect (a nice way of saying control) my wife and children’s lives.

    So I can see reasons why you would be more likely to “give up” on a sibling, but it also seems true that you have less invested. If your spouse or child is going downhill, you were likely around and aware of it before anyone else and you “failed” to stop it. By “fixing” the situation you also get some redemption, which is certainly appealing. The same seems less likely to be true with a sibling, it’s more likely they’ve lived their life and ended up where they are without your help or negligence.

  19. Sense says:

    Thanks for the life lesson–it’s never too late, or so bad that trying won’t make a difference.

    i’d bet mark looks up to YOU now, trent–you are a good dad and successful as well. I’d also bet he may be more likely to read this than you think…

  20. Thanks for a post that obviously had to be written carefully to be respectful to your brother’s privacy, but still convey the point. I think you’re right that when people are putting out a good faith effort, even if they fail, the people around them are willing to help them out. I think most poeple acknowledge that we all fail, but don’t want to be suckers for people who aren’t even trying and just want something for free. Thanks for sharing something so difficult, and thoughtful.

  21. Sue F says:

    Since you say your brother probably doesn’t know how you feel about him and will likely never see this post–why don’t you show it to him??

  22. Faculties says:

    Trent, I respect your openness and courage in this blog post immensely. I hope you will not take one correction the wrong way. I know you’re trying to be the best writer you can be, and that, as you say, trying matters, which is why I mention this. In the sentence “I would have immediately went outside,” it should be “I would have immediately gone outside.” In other words the past participle is “I would have gone,” not “I would have went.”

  23. !wanda says:

    I hope Mark isn’t his brother’s real name, given that Trent states his last name on this site. I’m pretty suspicious of people who appear to be reformed. If at one point Trent didn’t want this guy, his own brother, alone with his son, it would take a lot of evidence to convince me that the person had really changed and that some unknown trigger wouldn’t bring out the bad behavior again.

  24. Carlos says:

    Trent – Have you been taking female hormones and watching Tivo’d episodes of The View?

  25. Nancy says:

    Jimbo, I understand what you are saying about giving up too early. Did I give up too early, I don’t feel I have given up, we still have some contact. There are just some times no matter how close you have been to a person when they use up all you have to give them and you must move on. The issues I have are moral, and the atmosphere of the household is not one that I care to be in. Not a sibling by the way. Should this person change in some ways I would be willing to work on the relationship. But there is no “trying” on the other persons part in this situation and it is MY opinion that the lifestyle is bad not theirs. This is just not an environment I wanted my children in or care to experience any more than I have to myself. Am I being snobish or holier than thou? Some would say yes, I look at it as protecting my children, they do not need to see all the garbage of life and keeping my peace of mind is important to me. Too much time in any negative atmosphere is not good for a person.

    Carmen, you asked if I would feel different if someone was on their death bed. Given that situation I am not sure how I would feel. In someways mourning for what used to be has already happened. The relationship will never be what it was.

  26. speedy says:

    “Friends are relatives you make for yourself.”
    ~ Eustache Deschamps

    You cannot choose the family you are born into; however, if it doesn’t work out, at least you are free to choose a new one.

  27. Thanks for your personal post Trent…

    Actually this is a kind of life everyone has.
    We use to make mistakes in our life and relationship.
    And IT’S NORMAL. As long as we can REALIZE our mistakes and try to FIX them.

    People willing to help and put simphaty on us, after they realize our efforts to help our own life.
    They care of us, but they need PROOF, and make sure their helps won’t go wrong.

    As individual, we just need to open our mind, have some instropections, and willing to change.

    “CHANGE We need now”, like what Obama said ;)

  28. michael says:

    Just wanted to say I think this is a cool ‘branching’ out by Trent. He’s growing as a writer, and he’s conveying things that aren’t dollar related directly…though, all aspects of our life are interconnected with one another so it’s important that other aspects are addressed too.

    re siblings/family: One thing I’ve learned about family members who have gone in a downward spiral and hurt their families is this; regardless of what someone says about their spiraling family member, I steer clear from piling on. Every family works things out differently, no matter how similar situations seem to be.

  29. tightwadfan says:

    First off just want to say I think Jimbo is being completely unfair to Trent, I didn’t get the impression AT ALL that Trent was talking about his brother like a random third-party, or that Trent had easily forsaken Mark. All I got from reading this post was how much Trent cares about Mark and is happy that Mark’s turning his life around. It’s like we’re not even reading the same post. And anyone who’s read Trent’s blog over the years can see how important family is to him, it’s just completely wrong to call him a hypocrite about this. But like any troll Jimbo’s gotten a lot of response so I guess he got what he wanted. I see I’ve walked into the trap too.

    Now for the important part – Trent, I so agree with you about the impact that trying can make. I definitely feel happy to help a relative or friend who’s actually trying versus revulsion towards helping those who are making no effort to change their bad habits. Unfortunately it seems like it’s always the ones who *aren’t* trying that are asking for money.

  30. theBadLibrarian says:

    ‘Trying and flailing’.

    That’s a funny typo, especially because that’s exactly how it feels when you’re struggling to get your life back on track and trying pretty much anything to get there.

  31. getagrip says:

    The perfect is the enemy of the good.

    You have to be willing to sincerely give things a try, and forgive yourself if it doesn’t come out perfect or you fail. As Trent mentiones, sincerely trying is more likely to get you somewhere better than you were before.

    With respect to families, it’s hard to see someone you looked up to take a path that seems destructive or defeating. When you’re a kid, a much older sibling can be hero worshiped (much like some parents). The problem is as we grow older the rose colored glasses clear up, and we begin to see things for what they are, or at least for what we think they are. Sometimes things resolve themselves, sometimes you have to cut off contact, and other times you realize you’re glass lenses may be clear, but they’re warped and you need to let go of expectations and old viewpoints you’re holding onto in order for them to straighten and get the real picture.

  32. drleonesse says:

    I think Valerie hit the nail on the head. Knowing your change in outlook toward your brother may be just the thing that keeps him going in the right direction.

  33. Jane says:

    “However, the circumstances would have to be very extreme, as in seriously life threatening as opposed to just leading different lifestyles with different values or religious beliefs for example, for me to consider it.”

    What about a sibling who is just so toxic and makes you and the rest of the family miserable? A person who blames all of his or her problems on her family and others and refuses to take responsibility? A person who, no matter what you do, thinks that you don’t care and nothing is ever good enough?

    Sure, this situation is not life threatening. But I challenge anyone to be subjected to the degree of discomfort and blame that my family has from my older sibling and not want to keep your distance.

    If you could only consider cutting ties with a sibling in a life threatening situation, then you must have a pretty good relationship with him or her to begin with. And you must be dealing with a fairly reasonable individual. I never imagined as a child that things would turn out this way between me and my sister, but life and its myriad of trials changes your perspective. Yes, it’s sad, but I have my sanity and the sanity of my family to think about.

  34. KellyB says:

    Trent – I agree with Valerie “I think you should share with Mark how much you looked up to him when you were younger and how proud you are of him now. Even though he may not be interested to read your blog, he surely would be interested in your voicing your respect and admiration.” Make sure to talk to your brother and reinforce how well he’s doing. Otherwise, he may get to the point where he feels no one has noticed and thinks “Why should I bother?”

  35. Henri says:

    Hi Trent I read your blog religiously and I think that you’re doing a great job. I would like to hear thought about the Susan Boyle experience.

  36. Nick says:

    Nice post Trent. Very thoughtful.

    I’m not sure if you meant “Trying and Failing”, but trying and “Flailing” is a very funny image.

    Thanks for the life even if it wasn’t on purpose.

  37. Charlie says:

    Trent, although this is a well written article and makes the point you are trying to convey very clear I hope you are prepared for the damage this could bring your brother. If I were his employer, new associate, or love interest and read this I would have serious questions about his character. The comment alone about your being afraid to leave a child alone with him (albeit a couple years ago) is disturbing, it does not leave you with the impression of someone who was just cranky with the family or made a couple of poor business decisions. You portrayed a very loving younger man but really only a cautiously optimistic impression of the adult you now deal with. It would not take a very close relative to figure out who you are referring to. I just hope you have given careful thought to how public this post is.

  38. The Personal Finance Playbook says:

    Nice post. My situation is much different, because I’m the oldest and my siblings are, for the most part, some of the best people I know. Thanks for sharing your story. I wish the best of luck to you and your brother. Hopefully he stays on the right track.

  39. Karen says:

    I completely agree with this post.
    I have a lot of empathy for my husband’s ex-wife. She’s a struggling single mother, as I was before I met my current husband (her ex). I know what it’s like trying to handle everything yourself. We’ve offered her help in lots of different ways, too many to list here, just short of paying her bills for her (we refused to do that). I’ve even gone as far as talking to hiring managers at my job about getting her a better paying job than working at the minimum wages jobs she always applied at (she would have to have her GED, she doesn’t have it yet).
    However, she blames us for all of her problems. It’s her ex’s fault that she’s a single mother even though he caught her cheating on him (and she has the child to prove it). It’s not her fault she has a low paying job because she wasn’t as lucky as I was to go to college (I didn’t – she has convinced herself that I did because I make good money at a job I’ve been at for 14 years). She is lacking her GED because she failed one portion of the test – she blames this on the fact that she’s ‘learning disabled’, however, will not take responsibility for this (by studying harder, learning new techniques, etc)…just uses it as an excuse for her failures.
    What she doesn’t understand is exactly what Trent has posted. The harder you are scincerely trying, the more opportunities seem to come your way and people seem to try to help you more (I can look back at my own life and see this as well). I know I would be doing much more to help her out (than what I currently do to help her out via my husband’s kids) if she wasn’t always blaming us for her problems.

  40. I was very moved by this post. And the diversity of comments are predictable.

    I’m just glad that ‘Mark’ is taking a new look at his life. I believe that it’s only a spiritual awakening that can change lives in a heartbeat. It may take the rest of his life to undo the damage his earlier choices made, but he’s taken a new path.

    Thanks again for the post, Trent and earnest comments!

  41. almost there says:

    90% of the strife and anguish I have experienced in my life are a result of interaction with family members, mine and spouse’s. Sometimes one must remember that siblings are just persons that you shared a womb with at different times. Like animals that were litter mates we make our own way in life. I have tried many times and learned that one cannot help adult siblings because they end up resenting it and must find their own solutions to their problems.

  42. lilacorchid says:

    Trent, thanks for this post. I get what you are saying. Without knowing specifics, it would appear that our siblings are similar (although I am the older one). I hope mine follows your brother’s path eventually.

  43. 60 in 3 - Health and Fitness says:

    Sometimes you just have to accept that your family members are different than you are. They don’t have the same goals or the same motivations and, unlike friends, you can’t really get a new family. You either accept them as is or you move on with your life without them.


  44. Evita says:

    Gosh…. this post is way too personal for me… we are now so far from personal finance….

  45. Great post and very well written.

    Sometimes we fail to see that our life and our future is largely in our hands. That can deter us from trying to improve our situation, instead waiting for something to happen or someone else to do something.

    Count on yourself and make an effort. With rare exception, where you are and where you’re headed is all up to you and the decisions you make. We’ll all go farther if we just keep trying.

    Whether it’s overcoming an addiction, getting rid of debt, or making your way in a new career path, action on your part will get results.

    Thomas Jefferson told us: “Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.”


  46. Andrew says:

    I’m not trying to put down Trent or the people that are agreeing with him on some of his recent articles, BUT is it just me or has this blog taken some kind of twisted turn off of its normal track? Half the articles seem to be less about Finace/Self-Reliance and more about sentimental family values/feelings. I’m not saying those are bad things but this blog just seems to be headed in a different dircetion lately.

  47. Lenore says:

    Trent, it sounds like your brother was going through a bout of depression or identity crisis. (You’ve noted that you sometimes get the winter blues, and mood disorders tend to run in families, so you might want to learn more about prevention and treatment.) If drugs or criminal behavior were involved, I agree with the “tough love” approach. If not, your brother probably would have benefitted more from your trust or small loan during his rough patch. Now that he’s gotten HIMSELF back together, you’re proud and eager to embrace him again. I can understand expecting others to pull their own weight and not wanting to get taken by an opportunist. I try to temper conditional love with compassion, but we all have to struggle with who to help and when to distance ourselves from someone destructive. I hope you feel ok about the choices you made regarding your brother and that he continues to thrive.

  48. al says:

    seems to me the trend here toward posts about values, family, etc. is reflective of the economic times, in which we need to shore up our personal relationships to weather difficult financial times (either to find a new job, keep our current one, or be reliable for or relied on by family and friends), and understand what’s really important about having financial security. i think it’s topical, and the opposition to this type of discussion in a financial context may be indicative of some of the big problems we’ve been incubating over the years. why shouldn’t our behavior and personal relationship values be important to our financial well-being?

    er, @carlos – sexist much?

  49. Larabara says:

    I agree that minor infractions are not worth writing a sibling or parent off. However, if someone couldn’t be trusted around a kid, or ends up on parole, it implies that the infraction(s) were not minor.

    Every now and then there is a case where a family member just writes someone off for what seems like a small offense, but for most family members, it takes a whole lot of pain and disappointment before they finally have to let go for the sake of their own sanity.

    Trust the folks who know, Jimbo–you are truly blessed if you never experience that kind of hurt in your life.

  50. Sense says:

    sheesh, people, trent just lost his grandmother. he’s reflecting on family and this is an emotional time for him. cut him some slack.

  51. Lis says:

    @theBadLibrarian – The whole “Trying and Flailing” thing made me laugh out loud when I read it in the post. Maybe it’s not a typo, but as someone else suggested, perfectly descriptive how you feel at that point. :) Either way, it’s a hilarious mental image.

  52. Kate says:

    I liked your post today. I do think it’s a little odd that you haven’t shared your thoughts with your brother. Seize the day! Let Mark know you’re proud of him. You just might make his day, his week, or possibly his year.

  53. Thanks for sharing this very personal information. I love stories of personal redemption . . .

  54. Georgia says:

    I have told my kids, my siblings, my in-laws, etc. that I love them. They may disappoint me, hurt me, shatter me, but nothing can stop me from loving them.

    That said, there are times we must pull back. I helped one kid in hard times because they were working 2 full time jobs and still not making it. But, I would not help someone who just griped and did nothing – family or not. People do not learn well when they are helped too much.

    Trent – I agree with several others. Find a time to tell Mark how much you care and are grateful for his trying. That is an important message for anyone, but especially to someone trying.

  55. Marcia says:

    Well, I have to go with Trent and Nancy on this one (haven’t read ALL the comments). I will fess up to listening to Dr. Laura on my commute home from my full-time job to pick up my child from daycare (masochist?)

    It is my responsibility to care for my husband and son. That is my primary job. It’s nobody’s job but my spouse’s and mine to build our family. By marrying him, it *had* to be my priority.

    I cannot change anyone. People can only help themselves. I have learned that through years of dealing with family members. It doesn’t mean, in my case, that I’ve “cut them off” or that I don’t see them (their situations aren’t terrible). But it does mean that I don’t give them money (in some cases), or I don’t get pulled into the constant complaints about health and depression (in other cases).

    How many times do you give someone a second chance? If a family member screwed up big time, but then got back in gear, I’d give them a second chance. But if my little brother was on drugs (he’s not) or in jail (not that either), while I’d take in his wife and kids, I certainly wouldn’t write him a check or pay his mortgage.

    I think this article does have a purpose towards personal finance. If you make an effort, you will have more opportunities…

  56. Beth says:

    Trent, please let your brother know how you feel about his efforts. He was there for you when you were a child, and he needs to know that his little brother admires him for the effort he is making. It’s very lonely to be struggling to make such significant changes, and he needs your support!

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