People Are Not Leaky Faucets

25 Jan

“Figure out what’s broken and fix it. That’s the way we naturally think. But that attitude reduces us to things like faucets that sometimes break and fail to function properly…we are relational, not mechanical.”
– Dr. Larry Crabb

I like to figure out what’s broken and fix it.  If I can’t, it goes on the To Fix list until I find someone else capable of fixing it.  I know I’m not alone in this desire to see everything function properly.  Ask any engineer.

But people cannot be fixed by other people. (At least not by me.) A friend of mine passed away the night before his brother’s wedding.  I could not fix that.  A friend of mine chose to stay in a verbally abusive relationship. I could not change her behavior.  And trust me when I say that I’ve tried, to the point where I was so stressed that I stopped sleeping at night.  A friend of mine suffers from epilepsy.  There’s no tool for me to fix that.  Another friend suffers from depression.  I cannot change his attitude.

And the engineer a few years ago, who graciously told me to lose weight so I could run faster (thinking he was being incredibly helpful) did not fix me.  I still weigh about the same (actually, more. But I swear it’s all muscle.  And I’m happy about that.) I was treated like a leaky faucet.  But I’m a person.  With complex un-faucet-like emotions and needs and desires and choices and consequences and behaviors.  Learned and unlearned, natured and nurtured, and complex and simple.  A faucet is just a faucet.

But people cannot be fixed by other people.  We are not in control of other people’s reactions or decisions.  There are times when, in love, we have to tell people uncomfortable truth.  But it’s not our responsibility to fix their mistakes, change their attitudes or force their behavior to change.  Ask anyone who has attempted that and they can tell you how often it backfires.

If you think otherwise, that you can change people,  please explain to me how often you’ve been successful.  How many marriages have you stopped from ending in divorce when people tried to change each other rather than accepting and supporting who the other person truly was?  How often have your desires to mold someone else, like PlayDoh, ended in them looking exactly how you planned?  What parent has ever given birth to a robot?  Please.  Enlighten me.

Until then, I am going to treat myself like a newly landed alien from outer space.  You know, the kind that walks around with flashcards: This is a leaky faucet.  This is a human being.  These two items are not the same.

Leaky faucets are to be fixed.  And then used for faucet-needs.  Flawed people (aren’t we all?) are to be loved.  And then encouraged and propped up and loved some more as they make their own choices and behavior changes and attitude adjustments.  The best we can do is to be there for them.  Viewing them as a person.  Not a project.  Maybe even holding their hand.  Definitely handing over a Kleenex when they get leaky.  Rather than frantically searching for a wrench.

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