Posted by Mary Beth Dahl on October 2, 2014
You know, when you try to do something nice, but then it ends up not turning out so well. Like the time I held the door for this woman, and some wild child escaped his mother. Or when I let this guy in front of me only to make the guy behind me very angry. There’s some sort of balance to this caring thing that I haven’t quite mastered.
As a reformed co-dependent, I am aware of my reflex to help other people when it’s really not in their best interest for me to do so. I know that, yet I still can’t quite get it right. Caring feels right to me. Letting them fend for themselves seems mean.
Things at my job had shifted around temporarily, and I was answering phones. I answered calls from people who wanted technical assistance. My mushy heart just broke for each and every one of them. And that’s why I tried to help. But I can’t really help because my technical knowledge is so surfacey, it’s a sheet of ice and the ice capades are doing an encore on it. But I tried anyway, and…well…it didn’t go so great. The words, “Oh no” and “What!” and some others, but I try to keep this PG, were said. And I was the opposite of helpful. It all worked out in the end, but not until I’d made a panicked call to my best friend and had a conversation with my boss.
Now a new policy has been instituted about how to handle calls.
I can appreciate that. I need boundaries to guide me through these waters, and the new policy is perfect for that. If only there were a “Caring” policy to guide the rest of life.
It’s not always so clear.
A friend is hurting and needs a hand, and we reach out to help again and again and again. Caring.
My feelings get hurt, and I decide to hide them instead of open up because I know the other person was tired or busy or clueless. Caring.
I don’t say no because I don’t want to cause someone else a huge problem, and I don’t want to be the “bad guy.” Caring.
The caring enabler feeds on that kind of activity, but real living is not found there.
We’ve each got our own load to carry. My happiness. My commitment. My life. Those things are my responsibility.
And I am not a better person because I helped someone out of a bad situation. Conversely, I am also not a bad person because I said no to something I just couldn’t do.
That may not be bailing them out of jail or finishing their report or remaining silent so as not to stir the waters. It just might mean knowing where you end and where they begin, and being okay with that. It’s not easy to figure all of this out, but it’s worth the effort, because when we take our caring to a higher level, people grow.
Where’s your caring-o-meter? Is it time to pull it back and stop feeling responsible for someone else’s stuff?