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Saturday, January 28, 2006

laissez-faire

Most of my life I have espoused the philosophy that we should live the life we choose and allow others to do the same. I suppose one could say I attempt to practice a sort of laissez-faire where people are concerned. At least that’s my philosophy—my intention. However, as Paul wrote: I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. (Romans 7:15, NRSV)

Unlike Paul, I do not necessarily hate it when I do not follow my laissez-faire intent. For example, when I am confronted with a person injuring another person or with injustice of some kind, I would hate myself if I did not intervene—if I allowed the offending party to continue to abuse another person or if I did not at the very least speak out against the in injustice. I suppose that all goes along with some “higher” principle than the notion of laissez-faire.

The real problem comes for me when I encounter a situation where there is no substantiated abuse or injustice and yet I still want to speak out or intervene. For example, I have a very dear friend who keeps getting himself into grave relationship problems. He always seems to be hooking up with a woman who uses him, takes from him all that he can give, and then discards him when he is literally drained.

My sense of laissez-faire informs me to let him do as he chooses to do. After all, it is his life and I really resent having people interfering in my life. However, when I see him playing out the same scene time and time again with only the woman changing, I feel the urge to intervene.

Or, another example: I have friend who has been living on the edge for several years. She has dreams and hopes and some very real needs. Yet, she does not work toward those dreams or even toward meeting her needs. She continually seeks some miraculous solution to her problems. To put it more bluntly, she looks for a man to rescue her.

I admit that I have recued her more than once. I have advised her on how she can meet her needs and even suggested ways to achieve her dreams. But she accepts advice as reluctantly as I accept advice and she continually falls back into her old pattern of looking for a knight in shining armor to save her.

Her present savior is much less of a knight than a bum. He is in his late thirties and lives with, and is supported by, his mother and step-father. What she thinks the guy has going for him is that he was “lucky” enough to have been in a car accident where the other driver has been judged to be at fault. He was injured, but not seriously. He is now claiming that this accident has intensified the pain he feels from a motorcycle accident he had years ago and is asking the other driver’s insurance company for a $500,000 settlement.

I really do not think that this guy is going to get a half million dollars out of the insurance company. Yet, my friend has placed all of her hopes and dreams—even her needs—on such a settlement. What I am to do? As with my friend who keeps getting himself into grave relationship problems, it is her life.

I say to myself that I need to follow my own philosophy of laissez-faire in such situations—but it sure hurts to do so.

15 comments:

  1. True all that you said.But only if one stumbles will he learn to get up and walk and god helps those who help themselves.Some time no matter how hard it becomes..Its best to let people be.

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  2. I love that little wooden guy... you use him so well.

    I agree, but I also think that people need to help themselves to a certain extent.

    *MWA* Nick!

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  3. When someone keeps doing the same things over and over, yet expecting a different result- they need to choose to make differnt choices. If thats what they want. You can guide, yet its up to them. Sometimes its very sad.

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  4. I don't have any answers. I know I would not be where I am ow if friends had just let me go the way I was going. The made me look at myself and only then did I see who I was becoming and I do not like what I saw.

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  5. Ohh my. I have just noticed that you have not been around since I changed everything.

    I am now at jackdsrose.blogspot.com

    Sorry Nick

    ~Kylz (ex. All Mine)

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  6. I know what you mean. It is a real quandry what to do in situations like those.

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  7. Remember: laissez-faire is OK as long as other people are willing to stay out of your shit, too.

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  8. In Star Trek, they called it "The Prime Directive," but Captain Picard disregarded it pretty regularly.

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  9. Nicky boy! You have never let well enough alone. Even when you were a kid you were always trying to make thing better and you still are trying to. You cannot save those fools from their own demons anymore than you could save your mother or even me.

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  10. Unfortunatly....I don't think you can help any more than you have. We all have to help ourselves and sometimes it takes us a very long time to learn from our own mistakes. We don't listen to those who know better because they are looking in from the outside...they see what we dont. But I know I listened to my friends a little (they were like that little voice in the back of my head)...but I still had to make the choice on my own to leave the bad relationship and decide to work on making sure I dont repeat. Only I can do that for myself.

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  11. well nick you know very well you have all you can do for her. she is spolled i told that!

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  12. Educatedunemployed—There is a story—a parable—that I once heard about a guy who kept falling in an open manhole. He did so many times before he finally decided to walk a different way. I shall post it someday soon.


    JD’s Rose—Thank you. I had that little guy on my desk in the study of the last church I pastored. I just found him as I was emptying a box of stuff I brought home from the church. I am going to attempt to use him to express stuff like emotions in the blog.

    Yes, people need to help themselves. I agree fully. What I realize from 30+ years as a therapist and counselor is that many people do not know how to help themselves.


    Lawbrat—You are right. We learn certain ways of responding to the similar situations and even when they fail, we too often keep trying the same response. I think that is what the Myth of Sisyphus is about: keep rolling that damned boulder up the mountain in the hope that the next time it won’t roll down.

    I know that when I find myself repeating the same acts and getting the same old results I realize that I need someone to help me change my frame of reference.


    Abby—I hear you. I also know that looking at my self honestly and objectively is one of the most difficult things I can do.


    JD’s Rose—I have the link updated and have been to visit your blog.


    Azsonofagun—I think you, Rex, for your empathy.


    Mike-in-Tucson—I almost agree. Sometimes I realize that I have needed people to point out that my shit stinks!


    Thomas—Excellent point! I had not thought of the “Prime Directive” as a form of laissez-faire!


    Frank—Thank you for reminding me. It is very good to hear your voice and your input.


    Kylee—You have some exceptional observations. Thank you. It really does come down to the choices each of us makes. As I said somewhere above, the problem is that sometimes we don’t recognize that we have choices. If we do recognize our alternatives and keep doing the same old thing anyway, no one can help us in any way.


    Chica—You are right. I have done as much as I can for Her—and actually more than I can afford to do. Yet, I find it hard to back off. I do not want to abandon her.

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  13. IF YOU REALLY THOUGHT ABOUT IT... YOU WOULD BE HELPING HER BECAUSE SHE WOULD LEARN THAT SHE IS GROWN AND NOT A CHILD AND CAST HAVE EVERY THANG SHE WANTS!!! AND YOU WOULD HAVE MONEY TO SPEND!!! JUST A THOUGHT

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  14. Chica—Yes, I know. I keep seeing her as the 11-year-old in that body cast. Of course, her limp doesn’t help me forget it.

    And I do love her child-like actions. Yet I really wish she would learn to make adult decisions; I am tempted too often to say “I told you this would happen.” Of course, I don’t—but she knows and sometimes says it for me.

    Someday she may learn to see the relationship between her actions and the consequences of those actions. I fear I will be long dead before that happens.

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