Truth Byte #46
“Not everything is your business.”
I am a helper. Always have been and probably always will be. So when I hear a cry for help, even a silent cry for help, I spring to action. I want to heal your pain, solve your problem, and make you smile again.
But this winter I have learned that not everything is my business.
I come from a very close-knit faith community. Whenever I go to one of our gatherings, even if I am in a totally different country than where I usually live, somebody in the group will know someone from my family. We are a community of adventurers, explorers, and pioneers, that left the pain of our poverty behind as we forged new vistas. We are an immigrant community with international roots, and even though my great grandchildren will likely know little of the cultural ancestry that I have subconsciously marinated in, the rhythms and flavours of “back home” run deep and strong in the caring way we interact, our collective, hidden anxieties, and how we dance and laugh with reckless abandon on the big days of celebration.
We have come a long way, both literally and psychologically, and we have a lot to be proud of.
But as an intimate, caring community, we are also painfully aware of those who are struggling. When tragedy strikes in one family, the ripples run quickly through our networks and reach the farthest corners of this planet, all the way to the lands where we came from. Long before the click of a button, our collective information travelled quickly, often with well-meaning embellishment and loving prayer along the way.
So when something bad happens to someone in my community, I feel it.
And I want to help.
But there are millions of us spread all across this blue/green globe. And I can’t save everyone.
This winter, I have learned that not everything is my business. I have sat with people in pain, and allowed myself to be uncomfortable with my impotence. I have watched the inevitable unfold and been powerless to change it. I have realized that you can only help someone who is willing to grab on to your hand as they are falling.
I now unnderstand that sometimes people unconsciously prefer pain over change.
I know this not only as an observer, but as someone who used to live there. There was a time in my past where I thought I knew everything about myself. I thought I knew every nook and cranny of my inner landscape, and I had unearthed even the darkest of demons. I was emerging from an intense few years of personal transformation, and I felt shiny and perfect.
And suddenly, the people around me, the people I considered my community, started exploding.
Marriages fell apart. Careers were in shambles. Children got seriously ill and injured. Addictions took hold. Friendships deteriorated. Hearts broke. Life just generally sucked for multiple people in my life simultaneously.
And I couldn’t save them.
I couldn’t fix it.
I had all this incredible knowledge and training and experience, and yet I couldn’t help the people who mattered the most to me.
Because they hadn’t asked for help.
And when they finally did, I wasn’t the one who could get through to them.
So years ago, I had to step back. I had to look around at all those I loved, and I had to make a choice. Would I spend the next decade furiously trying to fix it, or was there another option?
Perhaps I could gently turn back around to the people in my world who were thriving. Could I focus on building something that would last, rather than constantly trying to salvage bits of hope out of rubble of the personal tragedies around me?
Even though I kill plants on a regular basis, I know about the fundamental law of gardening: what you focus on will grow. I was ready to focus on what was already growing, rather than trying to fix what needed repair.
And as I shifted my attention, the seeds of hope took root in my heart once again, and my life began to unfold organically. The people who could benefit from my particular flavour of care started knocking on my open door, and the results were incredible. I was making a real and lasting impact on lives. And those who I couldn’t help also, somehow, began to find their way. By letting go of the “how”, I stepped aside and the Master Teacher in each person light their own path.
Today, my community thrives. The leaders have woken up to the depth and complexity of the issues, and have found solutions that address root causes rather than handing out the sparkly band-aids of the past. I have found my place as the quiet listener who sends prayers and heart and referral letters. And when I hear those calls for help, even the silent ones, I trust that I am not the only one listening.
I challenge you this week to take a step back. What are you assuming about the people in your life who you think need help? Are you giving them enough credit? Can you see their path, even if it’s difficult, as a spiritual unfolding rather than simply a tragedy? Can you focus on their resourcefulness, their resilience, their capacity for recovery? Can you, from a place of true care and compassion, put them in the hands of their Creator, and take a break from playing God?
That simple shift will probably make the holidays a lot more enjoyable for all!
Questions? Comments? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org