Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Being Super

It's so very tempting.  The allure of striving for perfection is strong.  It can be overpowering.  We want to be perfect.  We want to be the best, do the best, achieve the most, be super-caring, super-loving, super-capable.  We want to do it all, to fix it all, to give all.  We might even succeed ... for a while.  

But strength runs low.  We make mistakes.  We fail.  We think we know what's best, and we act on it.  And then ... disaster strikes.  We end up with the opposite of what we wanted to accomplish.  People we've tried to help get angry at us, rebel against us, and make the very choice that we warned them about.  And we wonder what went wrong - and either blame the other person / people for not doing what we knew was best, or we blame ourselves long and loud, hoping someone will stroke our egos and tell us we did the right thing and that the other person really IS at fault.  

The problem with expecting perfection from ourselves (and inevitably therefore from other people) is that we aren't perfect.  And we end up being incredibly disappointed when we prove that we AREN'T perfect.  

Of course, we give lip service to the fact that we aren't perfect ... but often we act as if we don't believe it.  And in disappointment and disillusionment, we berate others - and maybe even ourselves - when things don't pan out according to plan.

We aren't Superman.  
Trying to be Superman only leads to burnout.  And burnout is NOT pleasant!  We wind up incredibly weary, resentful, and even bitter. Been there, done that. For decades.  Not only does it make US weary, resentful and bitter, but it makes the ones we try to help incredibly weary (from fighting us off), resentful against us, and yes, bitter that we never let up or cut them a break.  Some people NEVER recover from that.

I'm not saying that we shouldn't hold high standards, or strive for excellence.  But excellence isn't the same as invincibility.  Expecting the best from someone (or believing that they[*] are capable of good things) isn't the same as nitpicking when they step out of line the least little bit, jumping all over them if they say, think, believe, or do something that is against our own standards. 
    [*um, including ourselves*]

Trying to rescue people - and I'm sure you've heard me say this before - is akin to trying to be God to them.  It's God's job to redeem, to save, to deliver, to rescue.  Not ours.  In a similar way, we can't expect other people to rescue us, to meet our emotional needs.  That's God's domain; we're asking our loved ones to be God to us.  They can't.  They're human.

We're human.  

But we can still be super.  Not the way we might think, though.  We can be "super" (that is, we can behave with integrity, compassion and maturity, being able to respect ourselves and gaining the respect of those we love) by:

- accepting the other person's choices, even if we don't agree with them.
- not trying to manipulate, hint, guilt, or intimidate others into a certain behavior, emotion, or belief.
- not trying to control the other person's outcome or "end result." 
- refraining from giving advice.
- listening for understanding: this requires not assuming we know it all, and being quiet long enough for the other person to speak, and not jumping in to offer our two cents' worth.
- letting the other person make his or her own mistakes and also letting that person bear the consequences of those mistakes. 
- keeping the other person's confidence - that means NOT "sharing" (gossiping) with other people ... even in the guise of a "prayer request."
- privately praying for, and openly caring about, the person - but not pushing our beliefs on them.
- making sure that they know that we love AND RESPECT them.  And showing it.

The bottom line is, whether we admit it or not, we are absolutely powerless over other people.  We are even powerless over ourselves, truth be told.  We can't be perfect or expect others to be perfect.  But by letting go of our need to control them and to control their (and our) outcomes, and trusting God to look after all that, three things happen.

The incredible pressure of bearing the weight of the whole world on our shoulders, rolls away (what a relief!) and peace replaces it.

We get our loved ones' respect and trust.

And we get our own: self-respect, self-trust.

I'd say that's pretty super.

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