In counseling, in mediation, in life, it’s easy to think we’re better than others. Even low self-esteem requires a self-absorbed focus, an inverted form of arrogance in itself.
We don’t normally confess this superiority, or we justify it by pointing out how others should stop being stupid, lazy, mean to us, etc.
Attempting to offset our shame, we might offer compassion to the less fortunate people. However, even the assumed need to feel compassion for others is a form of arrogance.
Someone once told me of their childhood poverty experience, “I grew to hate church people when my mom took us to their food pantry. They always looked at us with such pity even though they were nice.”
What are we supposed to do then? Being indifferent to the pain of others is not the solution.
Self-awareness helps. We believe our view of the world is accurate, true, and the right one; this perspective too often leaves us blind to the perspective of others.
It’s not a problem to solve, but it is a process to embrace. It’s what it means to be human. Accepting it’s existence in ourselves and others is how we move through it.
Once we recognize a problem is not ours to own, this doesn’t mean the actual owner of the problem will claim it. We can easily slip into manipulation trying to make others accept their problem.
When they don’t, we can be real jerks. From our perspective, the solution is very clear: Stop being stupid and doing stupid stuff! “That’s your problem, not mine! Don’t call me when you get in trouble! I won’t even feel bad for you when you do.”
Reality: If it was so easy to change, they would have already done it. People don’t enjoy being miserable, but they do become addicted to the patterns of behavior that keep them feeling misery….just like we get addicted to our patterns of trying to get others to do what we want them to do.
Crap! I hate when my own junk comes up in the midst of trying to point out the junk in someone else!
Letting someone own the problem is much different from trying to convince them to own it. When you try to convince them, you’re still owning it. Let go…again…and again. Repeat as needed.
Many of us have someone we care about who struggles with life or hurts themselves with bad decisions. Counselors face a similar challenge in the profession of helping people.
We want to help them find a solution to their problem. All of us can easily slip into owning more responsibility for the problem than is helpful and doing too much.
It makes us wonderfully human to have care and compassion for others. It’s not helpful when it goes too far.
Many lives contain traumatic stories, past or present. People do want to heal and move forward, so accusing them of not working hard enough is not helpful.
Believing they are alone, they want someone to depend on. When they find someone who cares, they lean hard! They can be very needy.
We may hear how special we are, how they don’t know what they’d do without us, and how grateful they are for us. People who lean toward serving and pleasing others, eat that stuff up!
I don’t believe it’s intentional manipulation, but it’s still manipulative.
The most loving thing we can do is let them own their problem.
Transparency is not about speaking every thought that pops in our head. It’s not about being rude or not nice. It’s not about confession. It’s not about validating our thoughts or feelings.
Transparency is about saying where we’re at, what we think, or how things appear to us. It’s about revealing what’s inside rather than remaining hidden.
It’s intentional communication. It’s genuine. It’s real. It requires practice. It’s about taking time to sort through our stuff, getting clarity on what and how we want to be known.
Being transparent is about the willingness to be uncomfortable; it’s easier to stay quiet. It’s not about opening ourselves up to being verbally or emotionally abused.
Timing is critical, and relationship is necessary. People have to be able to hear us and trust that we care.
There have been times when I’ve screwed it up or people have sent mixed messages. Was it me or was it them? I don’t know. It is what it is. It happens.
Transparency is being vulnerable: having the courage to expose ourselves to the potential of being hurt with the reality that the person or relationship is worth the risk.