Has it really been almost a month since I wrote last? Time flies and I do have the excuse that I was tied up for more than a week with houseguests and traveling. But the truth is that I’ve been casting around for a theme to write about that promises some depth and breadth. Today, a friend provided that theme by making the following statement, “It’s hard to change things when it involves getting others to change as well,”
At first glance, an innocuous statement. But it made me sit back on my heels and think. I have been taught – and teach – the precept (originating from Buddhist thought) that if you feel the need to change others in order to be happy, you must take a good, hard look at yourself and your role in the problem.
This works in relationships. It is futile and often damaging to expect or wait for the other to change. If you are part of the problem, do something about it. If you aren’t, and the problem persists in spite of talks, relationship therapy, and all the other things we try as we look for a happy equilibrium, get up and leave. Don’t sit around waiting for the other to change.
However, the world is never quite as simple as it looks, and that’s what my friend’s comment showed me. There are times that we are held hostage in a situation that is damaging to us but equally damaging if we get up and walk away. Times that simply being accommodating or flexible will cost us our health, energy, and/or integrity. How do we stand tall and endure in situations like this? How do we do the balancing act that keeps things from falling apart?
It gets even more complicated when we take this to a greater scale. When it’s not just our private life that’s affected but the lives of people we love or the future of our planet. Yes, it’s hard to change things when it involves getting others to change as well!
I don’t pretend to know the answer. I do know that if someone you know is caught up in a situation like this, the last thing you should do is to tell them to examine their own role in the problem. Or say, “Be the change you want in the world.” Of course, we need to be the change we want to achieve. We must walk our talk if we pretend to any form of integrity.
But we also need to buckle down and work hard at changing things when others aren’t helping at all. And we need to understand that some things are difficult to solve. In that case, the only thing we can do is make sure we’re healthy and resilient enough for the long haul.