Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Liberation from the shackles of being God.
Just like a boat taking on water, we all begin to sink when we take on the consequences that belong to another person. People make their own choices. Your children, your coworkers, your friends, the people you are closest to or furthest from -- everyone makes decisions they are responsible for. You are not God, and you can't rescue everyone. Why do we feel so responsible for the actions of others?
From the time of infancy, we as humans have a hard time separating ourselves from the world around us. Until a child is several months old, they can't distinguish between themselves and the people around them; it's as if there is only one SELF. Part of maturity is learning where you end, and another begins...
Into adolescence, what child didn't feel homesick when they went off to camp? Flying the coop is hard on everyone, even those who are left in the empty nest. What parent of a newborn hasn't felt the euphoria of watching your child experiencing something new daily, and feeling like you are reliving life at a new depth unknown before? We are so interconnected in healthy ways, when an unhealthy bond appears, we are blind to it.
Over the years I have struggled with a sense of guilt when people I am helping falter or fail. As I invested time in ministering to people, or even time in parenting, I've felt overly responsible at times. If the other person fails, I have taken on a sense that I didn't do enough or this was my fault. I'm sure I'm not alone in this. Why do we take on feelings of guilt or regret for other people, when we are not supposed to?
One reason it is easy to focus on the shortcomings of others, it simply takes the focus off of our weaknesses. If I can see your faults and try to help you, I must be healthier than you. That's simply not true, but it seems true at the time.
Sadly, sometimes we feel responsible for others, because we contributed to the problem. We weren't on our best behavior, we didn't do "all" we could do. Still, that is no excuse for people making bad choices that bring on worse consequences. Simply put, you didn't force them to make a bad choice, they still had to make their choice.
Some of us are hopelessly in love with strays, like the child that brings home every lone dog they see on the side of the road. We feel a tug at our heartstrings and we rush in the save the sufferer, simply because we cannot tolerate the pain of the other.
There certainly is nothing wrong in wanting to help people, and actually stepping to help. In fact, to remain neutral and to withhold help would be cruel. But there's a big difference between helping people and doing what others need to do for themselves. And, at the end of the day, people face the consequences for their choices. Consequences, good or bad, are the results they brought about, not you. There's an old saying, you reap what you sow.
About five years ago, maybe a bit longer than that, I finally realized I couldn't fix people. That realization might seem like old news to you, too common sense to mention, or just plain crazy. I can't change people for the better, but I'm in the business (so to speak) of improving people, as a minister. You can see how this might become complicated...
Perhaps the most liberating truth in life clicked for me when I realized I can't make people better, all I can do is cultivate a nurturing environment where emotional and spiritual health can thrive. I can be present, but still be separate; I can be myself without having to be enmeshed in you, but stay connected in a healthy way where I'm me & you are you.
True freedom in relationships is knowing that as individuals, we carry our own responsibility to make the right choice, and we are not responsible for the consequences of others. There was only one Messiah and He already died on a Cross for the World; I don't have to die myself to make sure other people live, I just need to let the Messiah use me as best as He sees fit.