People Can and Can’t

Sometimes people drive me crazy. They are just so unpredictable and uncontrollable. Unlike, say books. Books are so reliable. They generally have covers, a title, an author or two. Each one is filled with chapters, paragraphs, sentences, words, letters, white space interspersed with an occasional picture or illustration. I like books. Books do not, however, like me back. They don’t hand out hugs, smile at a witty remark, offer a listening ear or exchange a meaningful glance. I’m stuck with people for these things. And really, on the whole, people truly amaze, amuse and enrich life. Just sometimes, they really drive me crazy.

When I get to that place, I often need to remind myself of a few truths I’ve learned over the years. I’m sure I’m stealing these ideas from one or more psychologists, pastors, authors and motivational speakers, but here they are in my words.

People — what I can’t do:

Fix them. Coldplay’s heartfelt “Fix You” song entrances me every time, but in the end I can’t fix you, us, them or anyone else. People are not bicycles, mathematical equations or problems. Those things we fix. They’re people made up of bodies, minds, emotions, souls, and life experiences.

Make choices for them. I don’t have to live anyone else’s life for them. I don’t walk around in their shoes, feel the pressures they feel, or experience the full consequences of their choices. They do. They have wills and their job is to use them.

People – what I can do:

Love them. When I look back at my life, I have regrets. But the one thing I do not regret is loving.  Though I have lost, been lied to, bear some deep wounds and several battle scars on my heart, I don’t regret loving. Many years ago, in the middle of a dark time in many relationships around me, I found this Bible verse: “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8) Over time and in the end, I do think love wins–sometimes in surprising ways.

Extend choices to them. Brainstorm options. Offer resources. Build support systems. Suggest a different perspective. We often can assist people in making choices, but the final decision always lies with them.

It seems ironic to me when I think about writing grant proposals or creating a 5 year strategic plan with long-term goals and quantifiable results that Mother Theresa once won the Nobel Peace Prize. She did not fix anyone. I’m pretty sure that everyone who came to the Home of the Dying died. Somehow by loving people and extending a choice to them, people thought she brought peace to the entire world. Maybe that’s enough.

Painting by Lauren Warren.

Join the conversation! 3 Comments

  1. Love this statement – a profound thought for all of us to consider: “It seems ironic to me when I think about writing grant proposals or
    creating a 5 year strategic plan with long-term goals and quantifiable
    results that Mother Theresa once won the Nobel Peace Prize.”

    Thanks for sharing this super practical post Joanna – love it. I am going to refer back to this over and over again.

    Reply
  2. Good analysis, better conclusions. You would make Roger Sperry (Right brain-left brain) smile. Any chance you could do a speaking tour on your conclusions….:) Mark Taylor

    Reply
  3. Thanks for sharing. Loved it. I share your sentiments exactly… people drive me crazy. It’s just so humbling to know that I drive them just as crazy. What are friends/spouses/family for? :)
    Lisa

    Reply

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