My son told me this week that I'm a "fixer" and he knows this because he's a fixer too, and he learned it from me. If someone calls me with a problem, I think it's my responsibility to help them resolve it.
My husband was not a "fixer." If someone called me with a problem and I was ready to get right out there and do my "fixer" thing, he would say, "If you help them now, you'll have to help them again later. Just let them figure it out themselves and they won't let this happen again." Hummm, I suppose that is true for some things, but what about the mother who needs diapers and formula right now? Wouldn't they just end up with a bare butted hungry child? Believe me, we had a lot of those kind of conversations!
So, we didn't always see eye to eye on helping or not helping but at times we could understand the other's point of view. (sometimes, not always.) Now that he's not here, I find it may be time for me to reel in my "fixer" personality on my own and try to find some middle ground.
I recently read "The Handbook for Companioning the Mourner" by Alan Wolfelt, Ph. D. It's a book written to help people care for those who are in grief. He wrote 11 Tenets for walking beside the mourner and listening to them without trying to fix or change them. I think they will help anyone with a friend in need, whether mourning, depressed, going through a divorce, or just having a bad day.
Sometimes the best thing we can do is just listen and not say or do anything. The next time I am ready to run out and rescue someone, I am going to read these tenets out loud to myself.
Tenet One: Companioning is about being present to another person's pain; it is not about taking away the pain.
Tenet Two : Companioning is about going to the wilderness of the soul with another human being; it is not about thinking you are responsible for finding the way out.
Tenet Three: Companioning is about honoring the spirit; it is not about focusing on the intellect.
Tenet Four: Companioning is about listening with the heart; it is not about analyzing with the head.
Tenet Five: Companioning is about bearing witness to the struggles of others; it is not about judging or directing these struggles.
Tenet Six: Companioning is about walking alongside; it is not about leading.
Tenet Seven: Companioning means discovering the gifts of sacred silence; it does not mean filling up every moment with words.
Tenet Eight: Companioning is about being still; it is not about frantic movement forward.
Tenet Nine: Companioning is about respecting disorder and confusion; it is not about imposing order and logic.
Tenet Ten: Companioning is about learning from others; it is not about teaching them.
Tenet Eleven: Companioning is about curiosity; it is not about expertise. by Alan Wolfelt, Ph. D