Welcome! This is Part 1 in a series on relationships and learning to love people in process. We all need a little help in these areas sometimes, don't you think? I hope these words encourage you and help you to live life bravely.
This may rock your world, but I don't know everything. Yep, it's a shocking thought.
And these days I tend to remember this truth.
But occasionally in my life I have acted as though I do know everything. Sadly, it never works out well. Especially when another person is the recipient of my know-it-all-ness.
You’re familiar with the person who has all the answers, right?
It usually sounds something like this:
“Oh you’re sad? Have you tried being thankful?
"You need to lose weight? Well working out X number of times usually does the trick for me"
“Your marriage is in shambles? Have you tried ________?”
What do these answers have in common? Basically, I’m trying to “fix” the other person without acknowledging A) They probably would have already addressed the issue if it were simple and B) I'm minimizing their experience by not recognizing each situation is unique.
It's kind of like saying you have a cannonball wound and someone hands you a band aid. It's a nice thought, but they don't understand nearly the size and breadth of the situation and ultimately it can cause the cannonball wounded to feel frustrated and alone.
When we take the posture that we know everything, we essentially tell them through our actions, whatever their struggle, whatever complication they are facing isn’t actually significant and they should just do X. In fact, if they don't do X they are part of the issue.
I find this thinking problematic.
In preparation to become a counselor, this tendency is something I had to address (quite a bit actually). I had to become okay with things that made me uncomfortable. And when I say uncomfortable, I mean it causes me to feel overwhelmed and small and like I want it to change immediately. I WISH I could fix the pain so they don’t have to feel it.
But also, I wish I didn't have to feel it.
It’s the pressure in your chest as someone tells you about their deep secret. It’s the knot in the back of your throat when you don’t know what to say. So many events can cause this reaction. It could be a person’s pain; layered and complicated and without a a timeline. Or a tragic death or even a marriage ending in messy piles of divorce papers.
And that’s the core of all this, don’t you think? I want to “fix” you because I don’t know how to be with your pain, or sadness, or grief, or loss, or disappointment.
And so, I need you to be okay…so I can be okay.
Except for the fact that this is tremendously unhealthy. God doesn’t ask us to be co-dependent with each other, but he does ask us to have compassion FOR one another. Those are different things.
‘Fixing’ someone is different than supporting them or even helping them when they actually want ideas for resources about change. No, this phenomenon we’re talking about is not actually about them, it’s about me.
That’s how we know we’re fixing.
Instead of joining someone from a place of empathy, we’re most likely joining them from a place of anxiety. We might feel angry they ‘won’t take our advice.’ Or we may feel stuck because THEY aren’t changing.
When in reality, what may need to happen is WE need to change.
We may need to allow them the dignity of their own process and the freedom to be loved in the midst of it.