I’m guilty. Maybe you are, too.
When someone we care about is having trouble, we want to help them, intercede, solve their problem. This presents itself in many ways- rescuing, enabling, justifying, or appeasing them. Alternatively, it may be distancing, judging them, and becoming impatient. Either way, we forget one fundamental truth: each of us is fully capable and wholly responsible for defining the course of our own lives.
Instead of viewing this as the very essence of our time on Earth, a remarkable gift and opportunity for learning, we often choose to suffer, resist, eradicate or deny the issue. This is what causes pain.
I’ve spent a lifetime wanting to help others.
Without hesitation, I offer advice, remedies, strategies, and solutions. I see pain and I know how to fix it- why wouldn’t I explain how?
On a recent trip, I met a young woman who’d been in a horrible car accident several months before. She’d been near death, but not ready to die, had pleaded with God to return her to life.
Her wish was granted and she woke up to find her pelvis shattered requiring multiple surgeries, inscrutable pain and months of physical therapy. She was returned to life, but it was a much different life than before.
When I heard her story, it was hard to believe she’d had to learn how to walk again because she looked completely whole.
On a day trip to Tikal, she quietly shared her worries about being able to handle the rigors of the day. She was apprehensive, and at that moment seemed fragile to me. Aware of this, I worried about her as we hiked, climbed and ascended staircase after staircase to view the ruins. Many times I checked myself, wanting to ask her if she was all right, but I didn’t. I realized my worry was not required- in fact, it would have disrespected her experience that day.
Instead of hovering and reminding her of her challenge, I simply asked, “How’s your butt?”
As it turned out, her butt was just fine and we all had a magical day together in Tikal. As we sat in our circle the next day, telling our classmates about our adventure, my friend, near tears told the group about her surgery and concerns about going to Tikal.
She also told them how wonderful it was to discover she was up to the task, stronger than she believed, marking a significant milestone in her recovery.
As I listened, my eyes welled with tears. Her story not only inspired me but shed a huge light for me as well. In the guise of helping others, I’d often overstepped my boundaries by either giving unsolicited advice, urging a certain outcome, or secretly judging, withholding compassion, and distancing myself.
It’s natural to want to help others. The issue isn’t the help itself but the intention behind it.
Now when I hear myself giving advice or providing an agenda, I check in with myself to see if it’s triggering some need within me to fix, control or make the world right.
As a child, I learned early that pleasing was a way to feel loved, safe and accepted. That meant being hyper-vigilant, always ready to remedy, repair, or make better. This wasn’t all bad as I’ve gone on to create a business centered around service and helping others. But as an adult, I also realize, it’s not my responsibility to fix, cure or change anyone else.
Who am I to think I know better what is best for someone else? The arrogance has been so well disguised I didn’t recognize it. When I give advice, suggest solutions, urge action, whose agenda am I really invested in- theirs or mine?
This isn’t just a boundary issue. This is a spiritual issue.
And so, when I am triggered, I remember a long night when I was suffering, feeling lost and hopeless, desperately wanting to help someone who would not be helped. Crying, I heard a voice. The voice said calmly, “Stop. This isn’t yours. He’s fully capable. He’s able to choose. It’s not about you. Remember, ‘One Soul. One Source.’ ”
I took that to mean that we are all one Soul connect to one Source. But each Souls journey to Source is entirely their own.
What is Source? I think it is LOVE. And Love simply IS.
It has no need to attach, make right, insinuate or adjust. Love is not attached to an outcome. Outcomes, agendas, judgment, needing to feel helpful… that’s something else altogether- that’s Ego, the real cause of our separateness and suffering.