You want to help people. You see how their choices are making their life challenging. You feel a duty to help your fellow human beings. I get it. But there is something you need to remember: it’s not your job to fix people.
A Desire to Help
First of all, let me tell you that you are better off than a lot of people. Some people couldn’t give a rat’s ass about other people (to be honest, do rat’s even have asses or do we just use that expression instead of “giving a rat’s tail” to avoid confusion in more rural areas?)
Then there is another group. They are the group that thinks it’s cool to help people, but only if they are deserving. It’s almost ironic. After all, isn’t it the people who are least deserving that need help the most? As the saying goes “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” This approach to kindness is more about helping one feel good instead of helping others in need.
But you – you have decided to help others, and not because there’s something in it for you, but because they are human beings in need. You simply follow the golden rule and treat others as you would want to be treated even when they’re not deserving.
But here’s the trap you get into. You see them doing things that hurt themselves. You see the pain they are inflicting on themselves. You want to help, so you want to fix them. The problem is it’s not your job to fix people.
“We Can’t Save People From Themselves”
I’ve recently started rewatching Scrubs. It’s a great comedy from the turn of the century (although some of its approaches to personal interactions haven’t held up well). One of the strongest parts of its appeal is the truth in its messages and its heart.
In the second episode of the long running series, the lead, J.D. goes to the house of his mentor, Dr. Cox, a rough, no nonsense doctor. After dealing with a patient that wouldn’t listen to their advice, J.D. thinks he can get past Dr. Cox’s tough persona by sharing a six pack and talking it over.
It doesn’t go well.
But, even though Dr. Cox doesn’t have time for J.D.’s feelgoodery, he gives him a piece of advice: “It turns out you can’t save people from themselves… we just treat ‘em. We’re going to treat that kid with a respiratory problem and when he comes back with cancer, we’ll go ahead and treat that too.”
Dr. Cox realized a truth that you should know too: it’s not your job to fix people. Your job is much different.
People will eat poorly and complain about their health. They will choose terrible partners and wonder why their relationships suck. They will charge up their credit cards and complain about their money. When they do, you have to remember it’s not your job to fix people.
Your job kind of sucks. It’s your job to love them. Even when they don’t deserve it. Even when they do things that create their own problems. You want to fix them but instead you have to simply stand with them through the brokenness. You have to show them kindness. You have to support them even when you don’t support their choices.
You can tell them you don’t support their choices, although often, it’s simply enough to ask them how what they are doing is helping them. They typically know.
Why We Love Them
It’s worth noting that a lot of problems are not created by bad choices. It’s worth noting that when they are, they are usually created because of the bad choices others made that caused the people we care about to start making bad choices to begin with.
It’s also worth noting that sometimes we’re wrong and when we think people are making bad choices it may be that either they are making the best choice available or we simply don’t see it right and it’s not a bad choice at all.
That’s one of the best reasons not to fix people: because they are the ones who have to figure it out and fix themselves. Even if they don’t, it’s still our job to love them.
And it’s our job to accept it when they won’t love themselves enough to change. It’s not our job to fix people. It’s just our job to love them, as painful as that can be.