Sunday, January 29, 2006

Overcoming Wanting To Rescue: Misplaced Responsibility.

As with most mornings, checking email was my first order of business. I moderate a small, low traffic computer group. We have attracted the attention of a spammer. This individual joined our public group and then sent out messages in broken English about wanting to impress a girl. The English is terrible and addressed to fifty-eight other organizations. I noted the originating email address, banned the two offending "people" from the group and notified the email client that they had a problem account. All correct so far.

This morning I received, addressed to me personally, a pathetic message from this now banned individual, pleading for my friendship. Actually, he was pleading for his own friendship, but I guess he means to be my friend. The healthy response: delete the message and go on with my life. Even though I've done that, I feel terrible about it.

One of the definitions of the word "rescue" is to prevent someone from becoming lost, or abandoned. The unhealthy part of me believes it is my job to "rescue" this suffering soul. I actually prayed over this situation. I want to document this struggle, as it is symptomatic of the battle to recover from poor parenting and bad role modeling.

Where do I get the very strong impulse to "help" this person? First off, he probably does need help: bad English, (I assume) isolation, based on his communications and I should teach this person, to help them have a better life! What is to account for this sense that I need to get involved here?

As I argue the pros and cons of engaging with this individual, I realize the following. My thinking is simple:

  1. This person needs help.
  2. I am capable of rendering comfort and information.
  3. Somebody should help.
  4. (I assume): nobody will.
Therefore: I have to help!

I immediately realize I'm tapping into an old pattern formed around age seven. My parents are passed out from a day of drinking. The house is a mess. I know they won't fix it. Since I'm able to clean up and make beds, I choose to do it. In some small way, a cleaner house makes me feel better. Eventually I get angry and refuse to continue cleaning up the messy house. I thus teach myself to live in a mess.

I was seriously neglected and learned that I was the only sane person around, so I'd better take care of myself. Trusting my parents had gotten me hurt, not fed and "forgotten". Because of my circumstances as a neglected seven-year-old, I learned healthy self-reliance, unhealthy contempt for the rest of the human race and the misplaced obligation to help everyone, everywhere! Since everyone else is incompetent, the rest of the population needs my help!

The last two "facts" are dead wrong. Most people (thankfully) have not survived major child abuse and for sure aren't incompetent to run their own lives. But even if most people were incompetent, it is not my responsibility to help them. I have learned these lessons by trying to be everybody's miracle. I couldn't manage my affairs, but was sure I could help you. Oh, the needless pain I created for others and myself!

One of the great traps you can fall into, to distract yourself from yourself, is to "help" others. The order is just the opposite of what most people assume leads to health. Get your own life in order before you attempt to "fix" someone else. The reason people avoid this order is because, while involved with someone else's problems, you get to ignore your own. The same holds true for having relationships. It is more fun to have sex, then to face yourself. But until you actually face yourself, I can guarantee you will flop at having anything close to a successful intimate relationship. Two half-people don't come together to form one "whole" couple. Religion knows this truth.

We are accountable to God individually, not attached to parents, mates, or friends. The job of religion is to take us from being spiritually ill, selfish, and one-dimensional beings to becoming healthier, multi-dimensional and less-selfish human beings. The process is usually not understood at all by those going through it. Many people think of religion as a kind of cosmic band aid, slot machine and or butler service. Religion is in the business of building character, not Disneyland.

Note the typical general process of the "new" Christian. They come to God after literally attempting every other possible solution to whatever is wrong in their life. The relief of taking an action which appears to "work" turns them into instant evangelists. I remember visiting this territory via several different faiths and movements. I figured that since I now had an understanding, I could teach everyone else! Among other problems at this stage is PRIDE! But, attempting to convert the world to anything will begin to dismantle (in my case), the tower of pride I'd used as the foundation of my being. Eventually the new believer begins to settle down and go about working on their own issues and problems. Getting me to stop talking long enough to actually learn anything, was God's first order of business! I may not know squat, but boy, could I talk about it!

Pain was always my inspiration to change. Thankfully, now, as I begin to reap the benefits of years of hard work, I attempt to embrace change before God has to put me in something like a spiritual vice. I am not saying don't reach out to others, but look at the structure of most organizations. Before you get to become group treasurer, or leader, you are usually asked to make coffee and set up chairs. My new church has me involved in several small projects. I am extremely grateful to be used in real work, but I have not been asked to preach a sermon, teach Sunday School, or do a solo for Praise and Worship! They want to see if I'll actually stick around over time. When I can be trusted with more complex duties, they will be offered to me, along with whatever preparation is required. I have finally learned to wait. I do not have to use my teaching gifts at church yet.

I also do not have to render assistance, just because someone requests assistance. I have to manage my energy and resources responsibly. The spammer claims to live outside the US and since I don't speak his language, even if I wanted to help, how effective would my inadequate language skills be? I have also learned that, when folks want assistance, they are quite capable of asking me for it. I can relax and concentrate on the goals and dreams of my own life without needless fretting over the state of my friends. I used to think that to worry about you meant that I cared for you. No, to care about you involves prayer and a commitment to help when it is realistic and requested. Again, when I busy my mind by worrying about you, I get to ignore things I can actually change in my own life! I believe getting over the urge to jump in everywhere and all the time, will take time to fade. I lift this troubling dilemma up to my God and He goes to work on guiding me to resources which remind me of the stewardship responsibility I have for my own life.

As I continue to grow in spiritual health and strength, God will expand the scope of my work with others. When I let God do the leading, things work out for both the benefit of others as well as for myself. I have put the troubled spammer into God's capable hands and now return to my own blooming and expanding life.

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