Fixing people who need to be “fixed”

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The best way to ensure that someone who you do not like becomes more of what you do not like is to try to change what you do not like about that person.

When you confront someone with what you do not like about them, you end up making that person defend that behavior, and actually becoming more committed to it.

In my observation, that is why groups like A.A. work with alcoholics. People are always sitting an alcoholic down and talking to him about his drinking. The more the alcoholic is confronted with his own drinking problem, the more he builds a wall and the more he justifies his drinking. When he shows up to a place like A.A., the wall is tall and thick and he is determined that no one will breech it. But over time he realizes that no one there is talking to him about his drinking, they keep talking about their drinking. When the alcoholic realizes that no one is going to confront him about his drinking, he can begin to open up his wall and listen. Over time he begins to ask himself “Why do things that happen to alcoholics keep happening to me?” Then he can decide for himself if he is an alcoholic, and if so, if he wants to change. But the best way to keep an alcoholic an active alcoholic is to try to “fix” him or change him or get him to stop drinking.

Now it seems to me that this is true about most people in most situations. Until a person decides for himself that he is broken, you are not going to fix him, so trying to do so will only frustrate you and the person, and make that person commit to and be more of what you are trying to fix about him.

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So instead of trying to fix other people and make them act the way we think they should behave, let’s commit to:

1) trying to fix ourselves first and make sure our motives are pure before we do so. Let’s take the plank out of our own eyes before we try to take the speck out of the eyes of those around us.

2) don’t criticize another or tell them about their “defects” and mistakes, but tell them about your defects and mistakes and how they have made life more difficult for you, and how you learned to overcome them. Make them think they are helping you change for the better and they may see how it applies to them.

3) make a decision to accept them no matter what. God accepts all of us no matter what. I am deeply flawed and God accepts and loves me anyway. I live in a world in which I am surrounded by people who are deeply flawed and God accepts and loves them anyway. Maybe if I can learn to accept the flaws I see in others, I can learn to love them too.

4) Use those people as an opportunity to see what you may actually look like to others. We have a saying in counseling: “If you spot it, you got it.” This means that the things that bug you about other people is a thing that probably bugs you about yourself, or it is a behavior you are prone to doing. I can come across as a “Know-It-All” (probably because I know it all ). One day I was sitting through a meeting and found myself listening to another “Know-It-All” and I found myself wondering if that is how I sound to others. So I made the decision at that moment to be less of a “Know-It-All” with varying degrees of success. But the point is, we can use what we do not like about others as an opportunity to see how we may come across to other people and see where we need to work on ourselves.

5) If all else fails, you can always resort to saying an alternative version of the Serenity Prayer:

God, grant me the serenity
to accept the people I cannot change;
The courage to change the one I can;
And the wisdom to know it’s me.

Now the good news is that no one is asking you to do this for the rest of your life. Just do this for today. There are a lot of things that I do not want to do for the rest of my life, but I have made a decision to do them today. The funny thing is, every time I wake up, it is always today…

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