“If it’s broken, it’s our job to fix it.”
When I first heard this quote, I really, really liked it. If I haven’t already blogged about it, I feel very strongly that a lack of a sense of personal responsibility is causing huge problems in modern society. (Since it so easily embeds in human nature, it probably also existed in earlier times — I just wasn’t there to know!) I generally believe that turning a blind eye to a situation that needs improvement because “it’s not my responsibility” or “someone else will do it” is a poor reflection on personal character.
But then I started to type up this blog post, and memories from my codependent past began to surface. I remembered my ex-husband berating me for not living up to his expectations or embarrassing him. I remember my attempts to “fix” my children and “make” them into respectable people. I remember other codependents who were drawn to my codependency who made me feel subhuman with their efforts to “fix” me. What a mess!
These thoughts now lead me to wonder how do we know if something is broken, and when exactly should someone step in to help?
Seems like an easy answer, until I peel back the layers! Let’s look at some examples:
- When someone asks for help: This seems like a no-brainer, but there are people who ask for help and lose the opportunity to grow and gain experience by solving their own issues. They run for help too fast. On the other hand, there are people who simply won’t ask for help because they either have mental blocks to seeing that they could appropriately ask for help, or they are just too proud. So, a request for help isn’t always a good indicator when it comes to fixing what is broken — or even as an identifier that something is broken.
- When someone is causing themselves extra pain or hardship: Again, this isn’t as simple as it appears. Some people are caught in self-defeating thought cycles or patterns of behavior because it’s a cover for a deeper fear or problem. Even if they can admit the problem and even ask for help, they may still not be ready. This kind of pattern shows up regularly in recovery group meetings — the self-defeating pattern is still “working” well enough that it is valuable to the individual.
- When something is obviously wrong and needs to be righted: While there are some things that seem to almost be universally agreed upon as right and wrong, there is a cultural element to these categories, as well. Even if we were to point to Christianity as the ultimate measure of right and wrong, we find that the sects disagree among themselves and that adherents don’t always believe what their faction teaches. While I am a fairly devout member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and stand by those teachings and doctrines, I find that I am taught to offer my beliefs to others, not to force my “fixes” on them. (Politics is a different subject, so I am avoiding that issue right now.)
I could probably come up with more examples, but I think three is enough to make my point: I am personally convinced that there is no standard measure of when something is broken, nor do I believe that there is only one right way to fix it.
That being said, I believe (as I wrote at the beginning) in the power of the individual to step up, stand for something good, make changes, and invest time and effort in improving things within our own circle of influence. I raise money to help support research to end childhood cancer. I donate hair to locks of love. I support my church’s humanitarian efforts. I smile, hug, encourage, ask reflexive questions, listen, give some extra effort, and do what I can. I try to keep my own corner of the world as neat and tidy as I possibly can, and I’m generally challenging myself to find ways to do more.
Even if I can’t fix everything that’s broken and have to step back and accept when it’s not even my right to try, I can still fix a lot!