In the beginning there was empathy and compassion throughout my being. I felt the pain of those around me, cried tears over their hurts and became distraught if I upset anyone for any reason. I wanted everyone to like me, be happy, have only good things happen to them. I knew that if I were in charge of the world, I could make everything be wonderful for everyone.
Then I was promoted to my first management position and got stomped into the mud. The first couple of times I had to let someone go, I was so upset at ending their ability to provide for their family that they comforted me.
“It’s okay,” they would tell me as they hugged and patted me, “it’s not your fault that I keep calling in and people catch me at the fair or the movies or the mall.” Or, “You told me 3 months ago this was going to happen if I didn’t start showing up on time, please don’t be upset”.
After many disappointments and illusions lost, I turned to the dark side.
If I could not love and care these people into happy lives, then by god I would force them into it with my great and mighty authority. I developed the look, the tone, the walk and the strategy to make almost everything go the way it needed to go for everyone to get what they said they wanted. I was loved and hated with equal passion through those years. I got the degree, read the books, watched the videos and took to heart the lessons from (technically the greatest professional of all time)…my mother.
I knew shit.
The love for, and priority of my son’s upbringing caused my decision to step away. During that glorious hiatus, I learned a very valuable lesson that has carried me through the stages of the past few years.
I don’t need to be somebody to be somebody.
In the resting place of caring for my family and being responsible for only the work I did, I began to learn that power over self trumps any fictitious power I thought I had over anyone else’s life choices. Unfortunately, the lesson didn’t root deeply enough. When I stepped back into management, I did something extremely foolish.
I picked the world up again, and carried it with me.
Being the stubborn, obstinate and contrary person that I obviously am, it took a major shake up for me to let the fuck go. People have the right and responsibility to earn and learn their own rewards and lessons. I do not have the right to “save” them from themselves or take their potential wisdom away just to make myself feel better by making their lives easier. There’s always something to face, that next thing, and if they are not strong enough how can they win?
Enabling is not empowering. It is the exact opposite.
Honestly, it is so hard for me not to jump in when I shouldn’t. It’s just as hard not to let others jump in and save me when I know I need to feel the pain of something. But I know myself well, and try to respect that others deserve the same chances to grow in the face of resistance. Which is the only way any muscle is built.
So after all these years, I have finally found my way back to the heart of me that empathizes, hurts and cries for another without stealing the struggle needed to grow strong. With some spine, hard-learned wisdom, and the ability to support without invading another’s choices I am gaining much needed ground in my own peace of mind.
*Just don’t ask for my thoughts on a matter unless you’re ready to hear it.