Leave the Nail Where It Is (Stop Being A Fixer)
Welcome to the second in a series of seemingly apathetic principles that will hopefully take us down the road to more awareness. Last week, we aimed to be invisible. This week, we aim to go one step further and do nothing, an art I perfected years ago, or so my wife tells me.
Yes, I’m talking about sitting on your hands, looking the other way and doing absolutely nothing. With apologies to Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and every boy scout who ever wanted to make a difference, the time has come to embrace the lazy little voice that says, “don’t get involved.”
So, draw the blinds, lock the doors and let the phone go to voice mail. This is the week we’ll step away from that deep-seeded urge to fix the world. This is the week we leave the nail right where it is.
Leave the Nail Where It Is (Stop Being A Fixer)
So, what’s this nail I’m talking about?
Well, I think this 90 second YouTube video from Jason Headley says it all. Watch it, then we’ll talk.
I don’t know about you, but he could have been filming at my house.
Let’s be clear though. This isn’t a man-woman, Mars-Venus thing. We’re all walking around with nails in our heads, those things we don’t see, won’t admit to, or can’t deal with. And, of course, we’re all just as likely to be on the other side of the couch, pointing out the nail in someone else’s head.
And, yes, it’s not just men who like to fix things. Women are just as guilty. They just have a different approach. Men want immediate results. Tear off the band-aid, yank the nail out with a hammer and get back to the couch and a cold beer as soon as possible. Sometimes, the speed by which a man wants to fix a problem is in direct proportion to his aversion to face conflict or pain, or at least in my house it is.
Women, on the other hand, are a lot more subtle. They want to talk things through, process, plan, and strategize. And because, unlike a man, they don’t need to get credit for the win, most times you don’t even know they’re trying to fix something.
But, we’re not here to judge who’s doing the fixing, or why they’re doing it, but to simply put an end to it. And if this sounds like a continuation of last week’s “stay out of someone’s space” room, it is. We’re just approaching it from another angle.
Of course, looking at the nail in someone’s head and doing nothing is a lot harder than we think, especially when it comes to our children, a parent, spouse, or best friend, and even more when the “fix” seems so simple and obvious. It’s like my wife staring at my eyebrows and wanting to reach for the tweezers. You know she’s dying to get in and do something about it.
Doing nothing also goes against our human nature to help others. And as contradictory as it may sound, we should help others. The power of one person to make a profound difference in the world is real. The planet needs our compassion and kindness.
That being said, we can’t and shouldn’t try to fix everything. It’s not only impossible, but it can be energy-sucking, frustrating and depressing for us and invasive for those we aim to fix.
Part of becoming conscious is knowing when to jump in and pull the nail out and when to stand back and do nothing. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, here are five simple truths that we can remember as we make our way into the room where “absolutely nothing happens.”
Truth #1: You can’t fix someone who doesn’t want to be fixed.
You can’t help someone lose weight, start exercising, give up drinking, end a toxic relationship, or stop biting their nails, anymore than you can get someone (me) to pick up a dead squirrel in the front yard when they don’t want to. Sure you can needle, prod, guilt, blackmail, disapprove, lecture, and shame, but none of this will bring about lasting change unless it comes from within (it won’t). You might as well leave the nail where it is and turn the head into a hat rack.
Truth #2: Acceptance is more important than fixing.
Here is a lesson my wife has been teaching me for years. And believe me, the beauty and simplicity of it has not been lost on me. It is this: people don’t want you to provide the solution for them. They want to be heard, accepted and loved as they find the solution for themselves. True help isn’t just about “doing” for someone else. It’s about “being” there for that person, with an open heart, and judgement-free encouragement.
Truth #3: Help without expectations.
Again, I’m not saying we should always ignore the call for help, or turn our back on everything that needs to be fixed. It’s about knowing when to help and when to do nothing. It is an art that comes down to our intentions, or more accurately, our expectations.
There is that invasive kind of help that is fueled by our ego’s need to control the actions of another human being. This is conditional help, and is usually given more for our own benefit than those we’re trying to help. On the other hand, helping is at its most pure when it’s harmless, which usually comes when there are no demands or expectations from those we aim to help. It is help that’s given freely, and with the recognition that everyone has their own path to live, and always on their own timeline.
Truth #4: Don’t be a doormat.
Now what happens when you say nothing about the nail in your wife’s head and suddenly there’s blood all over the couch, or you wake up in the morning with a small hole in your forehead? That’s something that needs to be addressed. We should say something about it. Our safety and peace of mind depends on it. But, we should only address it from our own point of view, and how it affects us.
Truth #5: Let people have their own experiences.
I think one of the hardest lessons we have, especially with those closest to us, and even more so with our children, is realizing that we all need our own experiences to grow and become conscious. Fixing things for another might help in the short run, but it often does nothing to help in the long run.
Riding in with our white hat to save the day might sound noble and all, but it’s often at the expense of a much bigger payoff that the universe has planned. It’s easy to believe that someone else’s life would be a lot easier if we could just impart our knowledge and awareness on them. We could let our experiences save the pain for those around us. But, here’s the reality:
1. Sometimes the only way we grow is through pain and struggle.
2. You can’t give awareness away. It has to be earned. Sure, you can point, direct, guide and even inspire someone toward it. But, real awareness has to be experienced and owned. We need to discover the truth for ourselves.
And I speak from experience.
No sooner had I finished writing this blog post when the phone rang. My daughter was trying to get a hold of my wife, who wasn’t answering her cell phone. Now, I could go on for hours about my wife’s technologically-challenged life, but let’s just say she is on a nine month delay for receiving all her voicemail messages. Suffice it to say, we never got a hold of her.
Twenty calls and 10 texts later and she finally rolled in the driveway, where I greeted her with a disapproving wag of the finger. I didn’t have to say a word, but she knew I was mentally trying to fix her, the same way I might try to fix a dozen other things in her life, none of which needs fixing.
She wisely ignored me and I went back to my office, where I sat down in my chair, threw a few almonds in my mouth and immediately bit my tongue. And I really bit my tongue. No exaggeration, I bled for ten minutes straight. Profusely. I was going to have my daughter take a photo for the blog, but she drew the line on that assignment.
Of course, the universe’s message was loud and clear. You don’t need to tell me twice. I turned off my computer and decided to go for a run. Fifteen minutes later and I found myself running by this man who was letting his dog poop on some guys front yard, without picking up after him either.
I stared hard at him. Once again, I didn’t have to say a word. I was fixing him in my mind. A half second later, I tripped on a twig, lost my footing, and fell hard on the ground. I scraped my knee, banged up my hip and twisted my wrist.
Making matters more humiliating, the guy ran over to me, wanting to take me to his house, get me ice, call an ambulance, buy me breakfast. He couldn’t have been more helpful if he had been Mother Teresa. I told him I was fine, thanked him and hobbled down the street, glancing back just in time to see him pick up his dog’s poop.
In a heartbeat, I finally knew what it truly meant to leave the nail alone.
Now, it would have been nice if I could have learned this through insight and realization, and avoid the pain, but it doesn’t always happen that way. Sometimes we need the experience so we can own the truth for ourselves.
This is the way it is with all of us. Sometimes we’re just not ready to see the nail, let alone pull it out. We each need to move at our own pace, the same way we need to allow others to move at their own pace. To make real movement in life doesn’t just take action. It takes awareness.
So, this week, let’s leave the nail where it is. Resist the urge to fix those around you. Don’t push, prod or pull. Just sit back and allow the universe to do its thing.
You’ll be surprised at how good a job it does.
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