How would your life be different if you “just worry about yourself” and let everyone else worry about themselves?
I ran across one of those videos from YouTube that go viral on Facebook. Check this out and watch as one little girl seems to have very strong ideas on this subject!
I couldn’t help myself with this one. I had to share it because the little girl is absolutely adorable, but also because of her message. It is simple and yet so profound. We all know it is true that we should focus on our own decisions and responsibilities and let others take care of their own as well. Yet we don’t always live that way.
I’ve seen a lot of people in counseling that have wound up in messes because they couldn’t resist the temptation to “help” someone else. I’ll be honest with you…I’ve ended up in a few of my own messes for this reason. You know what I’m talking about. We see a friend or family member struggling with a decision and we are sure we can help. Because we are so wise and loving, we don’t wait for an invitation. We just jump in with both feet and offer our opinion or assistance. There are usually only a few ways this scenario ends at this point. Either they take our advice and it goes badly for them (that’s a great way to “Win Friends and Influence People” by the way) or they are offended because they didn’t feel they needed or wanted our sage advice. If you are the parent of teenagers, you have undoubtedly lived out both of these scenarios…probably recently. But what if our “helping” is actually doing more harm overall?
It goes against our natures to watch someone we love struggle and not lend a helping hand either by taking over the task or advising them on how to do it right. Most of the time our intentions really are good. But it is often the case that loving them means letting them mess it up and then figure out how to clean it up themselves. That’s how responsible adults are made…whether we start when they are two or thirty-two! Being a parent is tough and letting our kids find their own way is a lesson that can be painful for both them and us. That’s why this concept is sometimes called “Tough Love”.
There is a parable about a little boy who was watching a caterpillar as it went through all the stages of metamorphosis. He watched in fascination as the caterpillar built its cocoon and waited intently for the butterfly to emerge. As the butterfly began the arduous task of breaking free, the boy watched the struggle and felt so much compassion and love for the creature that he carefully reached in and helped it break free from the encasing. The boy was dismayed when he realized the butterfly was somewhat deformed. It was overly large and the wings were so misshapen it couldn’t fly. The boy showed his teacher and explained what had happened and how he tried to help. The teacher was kind but he explained to the boy that even though his intention was guided by love, his assistance was actually the cause of the butterfly’s deformity. The intense struggle that every butterfly endures to release itself from the cocoon is necessary because it strengthens the butterfly so it can fly. For when the wings are squeezed through the small opening, all the moisture is forced out leaving them light and translucent so they can fly.
I think mature, responsible people are made the same way. When we are forced to struggle, we become stronger, healthier and able to cope with more that life brings us. If we help too much, they will not be or feel capable and confident. Self esteem is something we allow them to build and develop. It doesn’t come from compliments, but rather earned success. I know as a parent, one of the toughest jobs is discerning when to let my kids wrestle it out on their own and when to intervene.I am positive I won’t always do it just right. When I do choose well, I will celebrate and be grateful for this journey of parenthood. When I choose wrong, I will give myself grace and realize that failing is my part of the struggle to mature and grow. Then I will celebrate and be grateful for this journey of life.