A wise person once told me not to worry about problems which are beyond my capability to solve. Suppose you have a job that pays well but that does not offer you much satisfaction. Instead of worrying about it each day, the question you should ask is: “Can I do something about it? Is there a possibility for me to make a change in order to improve this situation?” If the answer is ‘no’, there is nothing I can do about it at this time, then I should make a conscious decision to stop thinking about it and worrying about it. I should put my worry aside until such a time when I can do something about this situation. In the meantime I should position myself in a proper way to my situation that is an imperfect job by seeing the good and the benefit that it offers me at this time. This approach is even more important about things happening outside of my personal situations. Let’s say that a family member is dealing with a difficult time. Instead of worrying about it endlessly I should ask: “Is there something I can do to help?” If the answer is ‘yes’, then I move in that direction. If the answer is ‘no’, then I should stop worrying about it and position myself in a proper way towards that situation (pray for that situation, reflect on it in a creative way, etc.) Some people will say “easy for you to tell us to stop worrying”, especially if the person in question is close to us. What I see more and more these days is people taking on the responsibility of other people’s lives on themselves, hoping to change their lives. At the end every person is responsible for him/herself, and change can only take place in a person’s life when that person is ready and willing to make steps in the right direction. It is true that we can help, but only in as much as our help enables the person to have ownership of their lives, and not by taking responsibility away from them. This interplay that happens very often is between parents and their adult children. Parents want the child to do well, and in an attempt to heal a bad situation in the child’s life they begin to make decisions, pay the bills, offer housing, etc. in order to provide a bit of a ‘jump start’ for their adult child. I’ve seen this all too often, even in my own family, and the common result is that the adult child stops taking responsibility for his/her life and continues to rely on the help of his/her aging parents. This can put a tremendous strain on their relationship, parents can become overwhelmed by having to support a child who is an adult, and with this kind of strain something is bound to break. We can only take ownership of our own lives. The best we can do with the lives of others is to know how to position our lives around their situation in a way that enables the person to take responsibility for his/her life. After all, is this not how God works with us? He gives us free will and helps us. What God does not do is take responsibility away from us. God even allows us to experience the painful consequences of our wrong actions, always willing to welcome us back into a relationship with Him but on His terms (repentance and change). So, I guess what I’m saying is live your life and don’t take the responsibility of other people’s lives on yourself. If you are able to help someone it must always be done in a way that enables that person to make their own good decisions and live their own life.
Fr. Wojtek Kuzma