The people we can’t fix

Life holds many hard lessons, but one of the hardest I’ve learnt is this: you can’t fix other people.

You can support them or guide them. You can hug them and hold them. You can talk to them, cajole them, encourage them. You can walk alongside them on their journey.

Maybe one thing you say or do will make a difference and help them to take the next step. Or maybe everything you say or do will make no difference at all. And the galling thing is that you never know, at the time, which is which.

Even though I say I’ve learnt this lesson, perhaps I haven’t. Not in the true sense of accepting it and applying it in life. My failures surround me like ghosts.

Of course, like the well-meaning missionaries of the colonial era, trying to fix someone implies there is is something broken in the first place. That’s a value judgement we make, and it’s not always a view shared by the other person.

Or sometimes, the person we want to fix doesn’t agree there is a problem until much later on. They don’t recognise that you are trying to help them at the time. Then by the time they see it all, it’s too late to save your relationship.

I’ve had the title of this blog floating around in my head for weeks now. It started when I was listening to ‘The Broken Things’ (Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson) with two of my friends who also love the song.

I’ve been wondering what I want to say about the topic.

Maybe I just want to apologise to the universe: sorry, I can’t do all the good I would like to do. Sorry, sometimes I bugger it all up.

Maybe I just want to commune with everyone else who has ever tried to fix someone, and failed. Surely that is a common experience and part of the human condition. For everyone who has tried to proffer assistance to another person, whether welcome or not, I understand the sadness of failure. I understand that realising your own impotence, your lack of power over other people’s choices, is tough.

And I want to say that despite all of this, I know I will go on trying to fix things, people, situations. Sometimes it will go awry. Sometimes the impact will be marginal, sometimes completely fruitless. But it would worse – and impossible anyway – to stop caring and to stop trying.

There’s a Billy Bragg song that says ‘Tomorrow’s gonna be a better day / Because I’m gonna make it that way’. And as always, nobody says it better than Billy.

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    • Tim White(trash)
    • January 13th, 2015

    From long-time reader, first time leaver of snarky comments: I fear this blog is becoming overly introspective, yet ironically lacksing insight. It’s now filled with angsty, bombastic teenage diary entries about a subject of which the readership has long grown weary. Gratuitous (and misguided) quoting of the great Billy Bragg.

    I hate the arsehole Tim’s become.

    • I see your point. And I think we all need at least one leaver of snarky comments. Welcome.

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