Not So Simple

Someone left a comment on an elephant journal post the other day asking if it was better to allow things and people to just be as they are or if we should try to actively help them become “better”. It’s a tough question. It goes right to the heart of how we interact and relate with the world around us. Do we simply “live and let live” or do we try to constructively intervene?

I fired off a couple of lines saying that it would be best if we didn’t do either and instead lived as good examples to those around us. It was deep. It was sublime. It was profound. It was also wrong.

Things just aren’t that simple. Life is complex. It’s messy. It’s oftentimes confusing and it usually takes all of our strength, experience, wisdom and love to figure out how to act skillfully.

I’m thinking about the days before recovery now, when my friends and family were forced to stand on the sidelines and watch helplessly as I destroyed myself. Sometimes they tried to intervene but mostly they just gave me my space and prayed I would one day find my own way out. If anyone was trying to help me by showing me a good example, I was too self-absorbed to notice.

I don’t mean to second guess how people tried to help me then. Everyone did the best they could and I’m grateful now. But how would I have done it differently? How would I have helped me? It’s a question that I’m always asking and the answer is always evolving.

As it stands right now I think there’s no one right way to do this. Every situation is different. Sometimes you’ve got to do something and decisive action is the only way.

There’s a great story about two yogis who are meditating by a raging river. One day a crazed man comes rushing to the bank threatening to throw himself in. After trying to no avail to dissuade him, the first yogi goes back to his meditation. But the second yogi can’t abide by this and instead punches to guy in the head and knocks him out.

Then again, sometimes it’s best to keep silent, to just wait and watch. Sometimes you’ve got to respect that the person you’re trying to help is fully capable of figuring it out on her own.

But in all cases you have to act with mindfulness, with love, with compassion, with the true wish to help the other person without the usual thought of “what’s in it for me”. You also have to be willing to get messy, get stuck, get hurt.

Like I said, this is a question I keep asking. The answer isn’t complete and I don’t think it will ever be. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. In the mean time, have a wonderful day and thank you, as always, for reading.

About Chris Lemig

In 2007 I finally came out to family and friends as being gay. After twenty-three years of drug and alcohol addiction, I got sober, picked up a book on Buddhism then promptly bought a plane ticket to India. The Narrow Way is the story of how all that came to be.
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2 Responses to Not So Simple

  1. Sally Brown says:

    Wow! This is, indeed, a deep subject. While reading this, I came to the part where you describe your recovery and the people who tried to help you. It made me think of how I was before I began dealing with my own particular issues and recovery. I don’t know how people, including my closest family and friends, tolerated me.

    Now that I’ve grappled with the delicate and painful issues of my life, I realize that, as you say, each case is different. During my meditation I try to ask the Divine Spirit to guide me each day, and I trust that when someone comes into my awareness each day that I am able to speak and act in the way that is needed to be of help to this person and spread divine love into the Universe. There are days that I know I haven’t been at my best, but I have to let that go and hopefully learned and do better tomorrow.

    Sometimes I have had to decide to walk away from certain individuals because they are too needy and I am unable to meet their needs. However, sometimes I am blessed and the person in my path is receptive to change. This is when I am able to not only help another person, but I also receive a friend.

    Blessings to you and your readers, Chris! Sally

  2. Chris Lemig says:

    Beautiful comment, Sally. Thank you!

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