Are You Mr. or Ms. Fix-It?
Most of us hate to see anyone struggling. The moment we do, our natural instinct is to jump in and fix whatever in their life is broken so that they can put the struggle behind them and move forward—and there are times we can and should do that. But that doesn’t mean we should actually do the fixing. Show them how, explain why the broken should be fixed, but not actually fix the broken for another.
Why is that? What are we supposed to do? Let them suffer?
We’re not. We’re compassionate people and that means we are to help one another as best we can. The problem is, if we jump in and fix the broken, then the other person never learns how what is broken got broken and, worse, how to fix it for themselves. So the next time something breaks, they’re still at a loss as to how to make the repairs themselves.
You see, when we jump in, we think we’re saying, “I hate to see you in trouble or struggling. I want to help.” But what the other person thinks we’re saying is, “You have to rescue me because you think I’m incapable of fixing this myself.”
Whether that person feels too stupid, too inept, too afraid, too weak, too incompetent to fix what’s broken, depends on all that has happened before in his or her life. And on how s/he was taught to respond to breaking things by those in authority over him or her—going all the way back to early childhood.
We can’t predict exactly how someone else will respond to breaking things. We can’t know all they know about fixing things. And, honestly, when we jump in and fix what’s broken, we’re telling them we don’t trust their ability or judgment to fix it themselves. That’s a bad message to send. And if it is sent often enough, the other person begins to believe it, and maybe even to rely on it.
That leads to a lack of respect about breaking things. So what if I break it? Someone will fix it. They always do. That dependence and reliability on others to clean up messes becomes the natural way of thinking about breaking things.
When we Fix-It, we rob the breaker of the opportunity to be responsible and mature—to accept responsibility for his/her actions and to do what s/he can do to make things right. Each Fix-It we do is a reinforcement that they’re not capable, they’re lacking.
We don’t want to do that. But we don’t want to see others struggle. So what do we do?
We remember a quote from Maimonides: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
We teach the breaker how to Fix-It. We don’t Fix-It for him or her. That shows our faith in his or her abilities and character. And, when next s/he encounters a break, s/he has the tool of experience to fix his or her own breaks. The student becomes the teacher—and is then positioned to teach others.
This is a hard lesson for parents. We love our children and want them to avoid struggles. But the larger lesson is to permit them little struggles to arm them with the tools to cope constructively with larger struggles later. That is our objective. To raise kids capable of standing on their own, independently, armed with the resources they require to have a good life.
Remember, we learn in increments. Sometimes we stub our toe. But that makes us more aware and cautious. And because we are or become more cautious, we avoid being knocked to our knees or laid out flat.
Show, teach, guide and instruct. Assist, by all means. But hang up your Mr. or Ms. Fix-It tool belt. Sometimes the greatest gift is your expression of faith and belief in another’s abilities.
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© 2016, Vicki Hinze. Vicki Hinze is the award-winning bestselling author of nearly thirty novels in a variety of genres including, suspense, mystery, thriller, and romantic or faith-affirming thrillers. Her latest releases are: The Marked Star and In Case of Emergency: What You Need to Know When I Can’t Tell You (nonfiction). She holds a MFA in Creative Writing and a Ph.D. in Philosophy, Theocentric Business and Ethics. Hinze’s website: www.vickihinze.com. Facebook. Books. Twitter. Contact. KNOW IT FIRST! Subscribe to Vicki’s Monthly Newsletter!
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