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How Christians Can Help People Without Trying to Fix Them

Carola is a Christian writer and author of several books. She writes about Christian living, relationships, and other related topics.

When I struggled with breast cancer several years ago, this situation seemed to bring out the super-fix tendencies in some people. People grilled me about my diet and wanted to fix my eating habits. I was told I should drink supersize and gross veggie smoothies. They insisted that I take certain herbal or homeopathic remedies.

They told me about people who had been “cured” because of some magic formula or gross concoction. I confess that all I got out of the fixing was feeling frustrated and annoyed. Their efforts were not helpful.

One of the main rules of communication in some healing and recovery Christian ministries is that the participants do not try to fix the others. At first, I wondered why this rule existed, but now I understand the harm that trying to change others can do.

The Difference Between Loving and Fixing

Sometimes there seems to be a thin line between helping people and fixing them. Some aspects of fixing are obvious such as matchmaking or insisting that someone read a particular book. There are other more subtle ways that we may be trying to change others without even realizing the damage we may be doing.

As Christians, we love other people and long for them to make the right decisions and succeed in life. When we see people struggle with major issues such as unhappy marriages, troublesome children, unemployment, chronic illness, being single or single again, we want to hand them solutions on a silver platter.

As Christians, we want to obey Christ’s command to love other people as we love ourselves. We long to see our single friends get married, our teens get off drugs, the sick get well, and depressed individuals be happy again. We can love and accept them, or we can see their flaws and try to fix them.

Fixing is not love because it is usually motivated by wrong reasons such as:

  • forcing people to think and act the same way we do
  • a craving to feed our self-image as generous and giving people
  • a drive to manipulate others to do want we want them to do

Why We Are Not Qualified to Fix Others

We Often Do Not Know All Sides

We do not know all sides to a situation, whether it be a troubled marriage, a rebellious offspring, or a health problem. When I had breast cancer, all kinds of people tried to improve me by questioning everything from how I exercised to what I ate. Most of them had no idea what I ate and knew my lifestyle (which was healthy, if you want to know).

Fixing Comes Across As Criticism

The main problem I have with fixers is that their attempts did not come across as being helpful and caring. Instead, I felt like they are trying to correct something that is wrong with me. They made me feel bad about myself. According to them, I did not eat a proper diet. I should not have had chemo treatment.

I felt incompetent to run my own life. If my cancer comes back, it is my fault because I did not drink green goop or some herbal remedy. No individual likes having a know-it-all breezing in and telling them how to live their lives.

Fixing Is Usually Based On Assumptions

People seemed to jump to the conclusion that the cancer is partially my fault, even though they had no idea of what my diet was. Some judged me because I did not live on rabbit food and veggie shakes. I did not want information about pet cures or diet tips and tended to avoid people who were trying to make me "better."

When others push themselves into areas where they are not wanted, they can damage their relationships. They may assume that people need their help and barge in without considering how the recipients may feel about it.

Fixing Is Annoying

When people were bombarding me with their "cures" for cancer, I was thoroughly exasperated with them. I have been in other situations where people would not shut up. They yammered on and on with bad advice and Bible verses. Ugh!

Fixing Feeds Pride

Some Christians feel that they have all the answers and are puffed up with pride. Straightening out other poor sinners feeds their already inflated egos. They think they are doing a good deed, but they are really looking for praise and accolades from other people. They want to hear that they are the greatest. At times, their pride and arrogance will drive them to take control over their targets and manipulate them to do things their way.

It Takes Accountability Away From Individuals

Fixing is taking the responsibility of people's actions away from them onto themselves instead of holding the targets accountable for their decisions. For example, say that one of us insists that a friend leave her husband after he had an affair. So she leaves him and is very unhappy. She blames the fixer for her unhappiness instead of taking responsibility for her own choice.

How To Really Love Others

Our role is not to fix others but to support people while they fix themselves. There are several ways that we can express love without trying to change them. We should not see them as broken vessels that we have to put together again but as complete human beings worthy of our respect and care. Instead, we should pray for them and for the wisdom to truly be helpful.

Accept Them

Accept that bad things do happen to people (James 1:2-4). Many people face complex and challenging issues for which there is no quick solution. We do not have the right to judge them or look down on them.

We should not feel superior because they are struggling with something that is hard for them to deal with but may not be challenging for us. Those feelings come out of feelings of pride, something God hates (Proverbs 6:16-18).

Listen To Them

When people tell us their problems, we feel the urge to barge in with what we see as the answers to their problems. Instead, we should listen to them.

When I told people I had cancer, many responded with impractical and sometimes ridiculous “solutions.” All I usually wanted was a little sympathy and someone who will let me unload. I may sometimes be looking for a few words of comfort, a suggestion, or a sympathetic ear.

Express Empathy

When we pity a person who is going through a hard time, we may be looking down on them as lower human beings who needed us to rescue them. On the other hand, empathy means that we are trying to walk in their shoes and understand how they are feeling. God has called us to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2).

Give Suggestions, If Appropriate

Sometimes, people face difficult decisions and want to explore their options by talking about possible solutions. In a case like this, they may want some suggestions and our feedback. However, we should only make suggestions if people indicate that they are receptive or ask for it.

When we give advice during a fix attempt, individuals may take it as a blow to their egos. They may interpret our actions as an indication that we think they are not capable of handling situations on their own and that we feel superior to them.

Intervene Only When Necessary

There may be rare occasions where we need to take action -- not to fix the person -- but to save their lives or help them make their lives better. For example, people who are suicidal or chronically depressed need encouragement to see a mental health professional.

When we feel the urge to fix someone, we need to question our motives. Do we have a genuine desire to help them, or do we want them to fall in line with our agenda? Are we looking for the rush of having a person admire us for our wisdom and sage advice? Do we want to look good in the eyes of other people?

Instead of trying to fix them, we should be looking for more positive ways to be helpful.

References:

The Holy Bible, New International Version
Stephen Ministry Training Materials
Celebrate Recovery Participant Guides, John Baker and Johnny Baker

© 2021 Carola Finch

Comments

Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on August 26, 2021:

Well said. Nice presentation.

Cheryl E Preston from Roanoke on August 26, 2021:

this is very important and can make all the difference.

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