It took me a long time to figure out that Diane didn’t want me to solve every problem she mentioned to me. She would express a concern, frustration, or problem and I would offer the perfect solution. I had a difficult time figuring out that she didn’t want me to fix the problem, she wanted to be heard, appreciated, and understood. In fact my Mr. Fix-it schtick was proved to be a double frustration. I was not showing concern for her heart, and I was standing in the way of her. She needed to work through the challenge herself.
For a long time, however, I struggled with the idea that she was expressing frustration, but not wanting me to fix it. I had the idea that she didn’t want to do anything but complain. She didn’t want to act. That may or may not have been true, but in the end she was the one who needed to act, not me.
The idea that I’m to fix every frustration for her is akin to having faith for someone else. It’s the same as being the patron who supplies the financial needs of a church, but who cripples the church in the process, never allowing the church to find its own way, and take responsibility for self-care (under the providential, gracious, and rich goodness of God.
So what are we to do when someone we love is stuck? How are we to help someone who can’t seem to make a good decision? The answer to this is to take care of those things over which we actually have control. Can you provide a listening ear? Can you offer a word of encouragement? Can you suggest a different path?
Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct. – Galatians 6:4-5
When one of our sons was in a difficult spot, challenged with college, life, career and girlfriend decisions, Diane made a deliberate decision to say, “I’m sure you will make a good decision.” That was respectful to him, gave him the responsibility to deal with his own issues, and provided a lens of hope toward a future founded upon today’s good decision.
That’s not all we did. During those days we were urgently in prayer for our sons. We looked for opportunities to celebrate his good decisions. But we did not solve his problems for him. He needed to do something about it himself.
We may get ourselves into trouble by over-functioning. We can actually do too much for someone to the point of enabling bad decision-making and behavior. In the mean time it is also up to us to do the good we are able to do whenever it is in our power and pervue to do it.