My Dear Friends and Readers,
Today I sacrificed a personal opportunity to do a favor for a very good friend. A couple of my other friends asked me why I would do so, and I didn’t have an answer. This of course got me thinking why I had opted to do good for someone else. The answer is simple. It was not a sacrifice it was a service.
To begin with I am a natural caregiver. People feel comfortable around me and in minutes tell me their life stories or secrets. Added to this personality trait I am also a fixer. This is problematic for me as well as others, because in the past I created relationships where people were dependent upon me. This always turned out to be very taxing and unsustainable.
In order to be a fixer something has to be broken. Similarly if one is a rescuer someone needs to be rescued. I am at the age where I know on a fundamental level you cannot “fix” anyone. There are times when people need rescuing, but if they need to be rescued on a consistent basis you are not rescuing you are enabling. Most people are not interested in these kinds of relationships.
In my role as a lawyer people hire me to fix things that are broken- usually contracts or agreements. While there are legal tasks to perform, I find that a large part of what I do is counsel people to get out of their own way. The process of lawyering can take a number of forms but basically you are either the paternal lawyer telling the client what to do or you are the collaborative lawyer working with the client to help solve a problem where we work as a team. I find the latter form of lawyering to be easier on me because I don’t have to have all the answers and usually the client has information and experience that can support me in resolving a legal issue.
Here’s the bad news, in my personal life I fail to be the collaborative friend. I have been the fixer friend who becomes annoyed when my friends or family don’t listen to my advice or suggestions, which are really less than cleverly disguised ultimatums. When my friends and family fail to take my advice, I secretly wish that they will fail in their endeavors, which then forces me to ask, why not wish them well?
Part of being a fixer means that you have the answer or put another way the fixer is “right” and often times my need to be right outweighs my desire to help or fix. As I review my list of lost friends and family members with whom I know longer talk to, I realize that it is my need to be right and to be in a superior position that was the source of the broken relationships. With the start of the new year, I announced that I wanted to fully live my core values and I specifically chose the word service.
Helping people places the person who is helping in a superior position and it is a relationship of unequals. Being of service allows for a relationship of equals- perhaps with different skill sets- but nevertheless equals. My education as a lawyer- which is not, by the way, memorizing rules- but instead using deductive reasoning to solve problems has often times made me less than an understanding friend or companion or spouse. In deductive reasoning lawyers create a theory or hypothesis upon which we make a prediction. For deductive reasoning to be sound the hypothesis must be correct. So, after two decades of practicing law, I assume all my hypothesis (opinions) to be true and I can find facts to support any theory- especially the theories I am promoting. Therefore as a need to be right person who became a lawyer I unfortunately swim in a sea where I am always or usually right. While deductive reasoning or thinking is necessary in order to be a good lawyer, it is not necessary to being a good friend or a good person. There is no element of rightness in being of service. There is no expectation of reward in service and that is really what makes service feel so good.
As a recovering fixer I have compared how I feel when I am of service and I notice a sense of ease and contentment. When I fix people I feel triumphant and superior and bigger or better than the person whom I have fixed or helped. When people are served both people feel fulfilled and there is no sense of cloying gratefulness. What I mean by cloying- is an excess of sentiment- which is not needed, required or expected when people are of service.
So why did I sacrifice what appeared to be an opportunity in order to help out a friend? First of all, the opportunity only related to money. The favor actually was a means to further cement a relationship of equals. Did I receive money or a tangible reward for this service? No. Will the lost income negatively impact my life? No. My service to my friend- which was something only I could do was like putting money in my friend bank which is today far more important to me than actual dollars. Will my friend compensate me at some point- probably- but that’s not the important part of the equation.
I intend to practice being of service especially to my family, most of whom I fail to see as my equals. Being of service to them rather than helping or advising or rescuing them will go a long way in repairing my past failed efforts to fix them.
Brianna S. Clark
The Addict Writes