I was helping out a family member with some money issues. They were frustrated with losing an apartment unit, along with their deposit, and found themselves in the struggle between leasing agents, money order clerks, and lack of time or energy to deal with any of them. I stepped in to help, driving with them back and forth, offering my support where needed (and not needed), calling banks, tellers, and so forth. I pulled myself so closely to the problem that it became my problem, as well.
How many of you, reading this, can relate? This is something that we do almost reflexively. When it comes to our loved ones, we jump in. We assume the role of what one of my teachers calls, “first responder.” Fixing the issue becomes our sole mission, and we make it our priority to handle the problem in our own way, as if it were our own. Granted, we do this out of love for our person. I was helping my brother. I adore my brother. The older sister protector in me jumps out when I see him struggle; so naturally, I step in and start clearing out the mess. We do this out of love (it’s also out of fear, but that’s a longer article).
The moment I realized that I was doing more harm than good was when I sat down to meditate, and the first message that came in was,
You are standing in the way of his life lesson
Damn. Here I thought I was being the super awesome sister helper, at the ready to get my hands dirty and wash the problem away. What I failed to realize was that in every problem, there is a lesson. And it’s almost hilarious that I would have to be reminded of that so eloquently, considering it’s something I write about. All the time.
But the message was true. I was standing in the way of his lesson. Seeing him struggle to get a grip on his problem is about me. I may not know what it’s like to be a parent, but I do know what it’s like to be an older sister. There is a primal protective defense that kicks in automatically when I sense that my brother is in trouble. I think we all have this predisposition. Out of context of what I’m trying to prove here, that automatic response is genuinely compassionate. But when I take my giant, overflowing, primal love and use it to wipe the slate clean for someone I love, I am taking away their opportunity to learn from the events in their own life.
So the message I received in meditation was spot on. As many of us, I am better equipped at fixing someone else’s problem than I am at seeing them struggle — and this is especially true when it’s someone with whom we’re close. I don’t enjoy seeing my brother beat himself up or give in to disappointment or slump in resignation. I want to jump in!
But I can’t. Life is a series of events, giving us hills and valleys in which to learn about our strength, courage, weakness, honesty, resilience, failure, and success. We cannot walk our path in expectation that someone will fight our battles for us — and believe me, there will be many people who volunteer (like me)! In order to truly learn, we must experience all of the above, first-hand. And that’s what I was disallowing in my brother’s life, just by thinking that my good deed was, well…good.
No. My good deed was born out of fear that somehow, my brother would fail and suffer and be miserable. And the comfortable and loving side of me didn’t want to visualize or witness that; so I picked myself up and carried myself to his aide, even when he probably didn’t really need it. Do you see how other people’s problems trigger our own fears? If so, than you’re one step closer to moving the hell out of your person’s way :) Because I promise you, the worst case scenario of someone else’s problem is never as bad as the one you already created in your head when you decided to help them.
This is a wise lesson to learn. It’s even more beautiful when implemented, which is why I’ve pulled myself out of my martyrdom, and have allowed my brother to fight his battles with vigor and aptitude I know he has. And it goes even further, because it’s not just me who looks out for him. It’s the entire Universe. As it’s meant to be.