dimanche, mai 15, 2011

Rescue her (him, them) -- not

Way back in seminary, we were told that we had to fight the temptation to be St. Bernard's for our people in our parishes, or the men and women we counseled.

A "St. Bernard" is someone who has a need to "rescue" others -- to fix them up, to make them whole.

This is tough for clergy, as for lots of people who work helping others, like counselors, social workers, and volunteers. Part of the reason we went into the fields we did was to try to make life better for other people.

Many of my life lessons in this area, however, haven't come from my work in churches. They have come from being a parent, from my marriage, and from my experience dating.

Part of a parent's task is keeping a child safe -- for as long as one can keep her safe. And, of course, another job as a parent is learning when to let go. Because I have such a strong-willed daughter, however, I found myself butting heads with her much sooner than the books tell you to expect. Currently, we are engaged in an ongoing discussion about whether she, a 16 year-old, can date a 20-year-old.

Her dad and I say no, of course -- apparently "no" is open to negotiation, according to the DQ.

She's already gotten under our reasonably permissive boundaries more than a few times -- and I have to accept that there are areas in which I currently have little or no rational (or coercive) power.

While I was married, I came to understand that true changes only happens if you, or your partner wants to change. One of us was content with the status quo -- the other was not.

I couldn't change him. And he couldn't get me to stay. But boy, did we give it a lot of time, mucho therapy and very candid conversation.

I once fell, very heavily for a guy who absolutely fascinated me - and it seems the fascination was reciprocated. Talk about opposites attracting. A confirmed and wealthy hedonist, he had lived a lifestyle totally beyond anything I could imagine. Or even, frankly, cared about.

The only problem? Well, one of many potential issues? He could only be intimate in threes. Of course, that implies a certain problem with intimacy (emotional and physical), period.

He was, in spite of his obvious intelligence, compassion and money, a sex addict. I couldn't change him -- and I wasn't about to alter my values and ethics in that regard.

Addictions are tricky things -- some can be healed, and some people struggle with them the rest of their lives. That's also the case with various emotional issues, like being bi-polar or cyclically depressed.

But the person coping with the disorder has to figure things out for her, or himself. There is no way you can much beyond standing by, encouraging, or challenging them.

Change is tough. It is hard work. And there is no way around it -- you have to go through it.

That's as true for me as it is for my children, for you or for those you love. One doesn't know what's at the other end of the change process - all one can do is hold on to oneself.

Existentially speaking, at the end of the day, you can solely be responsible for your own behavior.

Which, apparently, is a life lesson I haven't quite incorporated -- something no school, however good, can teach.

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