I do it a lot. A LOT. I don’t really want to be doing it. It fully contradicts my entire belief system in terms of the way we treat each other. It sounds both demeaning and pretentious as it comes out of my mouth. I cringe and bristle and scold myself even as the words come pouring fourth… advice – unsolicited no less… sometimes even instruction. Yes, I admit it. Sometimes, *gasp*…. I ‘should’ on people.
I hate that I do it at all, and I despise it when anyone does it to me… and yet… for some reason, I’m compelled to put on my high-and-mighty, I-know-the-answer-for-everything, emotional or spiritual or professional tool belt and “fix it”.
Of course I don’t actually believe I know everything. I certainly don’t believe anyone could absolutely and always know the right thing for another person. And of course, when someone asks my opinion – I’m happy – even thrilled – to provide it.
The thing that bothers me is the almost insurmountable compulsion to get involved in someone else’s life, choices, feelings, etcetera without being asked.
It is, currently, perhaps my heaviest cross. Why I do it no longer matters nearly as much to me as my desire to stop doing it. What does give me pause, though, is the question of how something so damaging got all caught up in something so incredible; the idea of love.
Of course, I realize we want to help those we love. ‘Want’ being the operative word. The want is a natural desire. The acting on it is where it becomes damaging… at least in my opinion.
It is a loaded scenario. One in which there is really no good outcome. First of all, the suggestion that perhaps I, in my very finite wisdom, have somehow stumbled upon a grand solution for another person’s life is flat-out ridiculous. Yes, of course I love to offer my suggestions and opinion – when they are solicited. And yes, of course I love to get the opinions and suggestions of those I respect, admire, and love. But that’s not what I’m talking about here.
What I’m talking about here is the knot that forms in my chest when someone is just TALKING to me about their life and suddenly I have a jet-fuel-powered compulsion to tell them what to do. The thoughts and ideas in my mind amass so quickly it’s a wonder I can still hear at all through the sound of the avalanche of “you should”s and “I’ll do it for you”s. And quite unlike the bothersome grain of sand that eventually becomes a pearl in an oyster shell, these nasty little grains don’t magically become beautiful or valuable… they become tiny little time bombs – often ultimately exploding at the most inopportune moment and in the most insensitive way. As if it isn’t insulting enough that I think I know what is right for someone else, I know first hand how demeaning it can be to have a person tell you what to do with you life. There have even been cases where I’ve found it quite offensive. Who am I to say what we each have to learn, and how? How in the world would I know any other soul’s own purpose and path?
Of course, I have lots of experiences on which to draw should a person want my particular perspective. From a spiritual level, however, it occurs to me that perhaps one of the true essences of love – is simply to allow another to walk their path on their own.
Instead of jumping in and “helping”. You know, akin to the time my friend was just telling me about a business idea she’d had. In 10 seconds – while she was still talking- I’d designed her logo and letterhead, built her website and business card, and had a marketing plan and timeline ready to launch. By the time I hear it isn’t going to work for her, I’ve decided she’s just scared, this is clearly the thing she wants the most in the world, and that I know how she can overcome these problems. Because – you know – I know so much about her life.
Second, it immediately implies that they – these people I LOVE and RESPECT – are incapable of finding this information on their own, finding a better resource than I have to offer, and/or are incapable of implementing what they already know.
Thirdly, it means I’m not actually listening to them – I’m making decisions for them while they’re attempting to communicate with me.
Yes, there is value in outside opinions. But what if the greatest expression of love was the one in which we held our tongues and let each other live the lives they WANT to live? What if the greatest test of real, true, deep love was the practiced ability to want the best for someone and hold ourselves back from getting involved (unless they ask of course), because we know they will learn the lessons their soul wants to learn in the way and time their soul wants to learn it. What if – with all our helping and “fixing”, we are, in fact, getting in the way of the plan that was originally laid out?
Because ultimately, I believe, every step of our lives is an opportunity to learn and grow – and an opportunity that can be taken and used ONLY by the soul for whom the opportunity is meant. I also believe that is a deeply personal and intimate decision that is between that soul, and their version of God. So, I am adopting a new practice of love, a new practice of loving others specifically; I intend to practice shutting my mouth, silently sending my friends and family love and light as they move through their own choices and opportunities, and I’m going to put away my “Little Miss Fix-it” sign – unless they ask me to help, of course.