Affirmation: I live a Christ centered life of love, joy, peace, gratitude and compassion.
My dear friend from my study group, The Seekers, sent me an Oprah article called, CHT (chronic helping tic.) I read with interest the symptoms the author attitributed to this ailment and I immediately realized I too had this disorder. It’s been an interesting process watching myself try to hold back from offering advice and guidance to people who haven’t asked me for help and in many cases ,from people I don’t even know, total strangers.
I am the oldest child of a family of three. My father always wanted a son but he got me instead and he seemed to really like me. We spent a lot of quality time together, probably a lot more time than was usual at that time. He really had a zest for life. He was a kind and decent man. He worked hard and he played hard and he included me whenever he could. I tell you all this because when I read Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, I saw a lot of the male attributes they described in my personality. One that was very strong was the desire to help people fix things, not to simply listen but to offer unsolicited advice when really; all they wanted was a sympathetic ear. I have worked hard over the years to change this guttural response. I am not always successful. I just feel like I have so much practical information about so many topics, I mean I love to read and to talk about psychosocial issues and then I’m ready to share this knowledge at the drop of the hat. But, I know that most people don’t want help, they don’t really want advice even when they ask for it. It can be a fine line between empowering and enabling. I walk it carefully and slip only too often.
I remember the story about Andre Carnegie when he was seated with a female dinner partner and after asking her a simple open ended question, did not get to speak again for the rest of the meal. When they were finally finished, she told him he was the most interesting dinner partner she had ever had the pleasure of speaking with. I know that’s an extreme but I believe most people love to talk about themselves and really will have polite conversations but even then, they are thinking about what they are going to say next. Mary Kay Ash has a story too about a woman who came to her for advice on a serious, personal issue. When the meeting was over the woman was thrilled with the results of the conversation. Mary Kay said she never said a word. She simply listened while this woman talked herself through her problem. This could be why a great therapist is in such demand. They are trained listeners.
After reading the article my friend sent me, I decided to take a hiatus from offering un-solicited help and to see how it went. I was doing fairly well until a woman in the grocery picked up a bag of mixed peppers. I immediately told her that I had bought those last week and not all of them were fresh. As soon as it came out, I wanted to kick myself. I think the secret here is what is motivating me to offer advice. If it’s a genuine concern for the other, that’s probably good but if it’s more about my ego, what I know and my wanting you to know how much I know, that’s not a good thing. This lady was fairly grateful. She said she’d had the same experience but had forgotten.
Also, I have a woman in my church who always arrives impeccably coifed. She’s an older woman but it’s obvious that she takes very good care of herself. The last time she arrived she looked marvelous and then I noticed several long hairs growing from her chin. Honestly, if I’d had a tweezer, I might have whipped it out at that very moment and offered my grooming skills but I didn’t and I decided it wouldn’t help her in any way if I told her about them and then there was the question, did she want to know. I must say that CHT just about took over my thoughts for quite a while. What was the right thing to do? Did she care? Did she think that was OK? Should I call or email? Would she never talk to me again or be embarrassed to be around me? After reading the article, I decided it was once again a case of CHT and I almost let it go, except for the fact that I’m writing about it here and now. What do you think? How would you have handled it? What advice do you have for me? Have you ever experienced such a tic?
The Courage to Change book from Alanon has one reading about someone’s gravestone. Whoever buried this gentleman had written on it, “He’s finally minding his own business.” I really don’t want that on my gravestone. So, each day I now try to stop myself from stepping into someone else’s life if it’s not from a purely loving heart. If it’s about them and what they truly seem to need and if I don’t care how it makes me feel, maybe then it’ll be OK. But, if it’s something I’m doing that feeds my ego, I need to recognize that and let it go. Yes, my mission statement for my life is, “I lead a Christ centered life of love, joy, peace, gratitude and compassion.” If all of my behavior is based on that I am sure when I reach out, it will be with a pure heart and if that’s true, all else will be as it should be.