You want to fix your spouse.
You want to fix your child.
You want to fix your church or that person in leadership, or that person on social media that says all the wrong things.
You want to fix that mother-in-law whose words hurt your heart.
You want to fix that situation where two people are at odds with each other.
What does that really mean, anyway? Fixing someone or something usually doesn’t mean you are trying to be controlling or intrusive. It often means that you simply care and want to help.
The problem with being a fixer is that it’s exhausting. I know this because years ago I could have been a card-carrying member of Fixers Anonymous. This wasn’t for the whole world. My fixing attempts were for those closest to me. Eventually, like a woman juggling 10 balls in the air, my belief that it was my job to fix things came tumbling down because fixing is not only tiresome (for you and others), but it also sets us up for failure.
“Fixing” Versus Love
A friend shared her disappointment in a recent fixer-upper adventure. She stepped in to help someone close to her and it backfired. Fixing meant she cleaned up his mess due to his choices, time after time. She invested financially. She made all the decisions that needed to be made. This person then took her help, kept doing exactly the same thing, and when he landed in the same old place, he blamed her for the mess, which she cleaned up again.
“I don’t understand,” she said. “God says to love people and I’m doing exactly that, but it always turns out this way.”
My friend is right. God does call us to love people and many times that is sacrificial. We are often invited to come alongside a person, to believe in them as they struggle to believe in themselves, to encourage, or offer practical help. The story of the Good Samaritan is a powerful example. In this story, Jesus asked us to notice those who needed mercy and tangible help as we come alongside. I don’t know about you, but I have been the recipient of that kind of tender care, and also been privileged to do the same thing for others.
Fixing is different. It’s stepping in to “clean up” a situation, often without pause because a fixer knows what is best. A fixer may get caught in the trap of assuming the consequences of another person’s behavior or choices so that a loved one doesn’t fail, fall short, or experience pain from their choices. A fixer may offer so much advice that the person on the other side doesn’t have the opportunity to listen to God’s voice for themselves because the fixer’s words are so loud in their ears.
In my friend’s case, she had fallen into a fixer dance – he makes a mistake; she cleaned it up and paid the consequences; he did it again; she cleaned it up again. It was heart-wrenching and unproductive. Not only that, her loved one had little reason to mature, heal, or grow through his mistakes.
What Is the Price of Living as a Fixer?
I’ve already mentioned two: It’s really tiring to get caught in the cycle of fixing and it can actually hinder more than help. Another is that fixers may get in the habit of offering help when it’s unwanted. That might look like sharing advice when it’s not asked for. I have watched women, who were and are amazing moms, struggle as a daughter or daughter-in-law steps into motherhood or marriage. They try to “fix” what they are doing, and the message is “be like me,” when all they want to do is find their own way, which causes angst in the relationship.
However, that isn’t the worst that comes from our fixer upper tendencies.
When we are actively trying to fix everyone else, it doesn’t leave much room for God to do His work in our own hearts. We are so focused on everyone and everything else, we forget that we are a work-in-progress too.
3 Things We Can Do instead of “Fixing”
If you are a natural encourager or helper, you may fear that if you stop “fixing,” that it leaves you helpless. Just because you put aside your desire to fix doesn’t mean there won’t be opportunities to help and love people. These are three things you can do:
If you sense the need to help, instead of jumping in to fix what you think is wrong, ask this question, “Do I understand the real issue here?” When we listen to a person or take a step back to listen to God, we have the opportunity to hear and discern the real struggle. Maybe that daughter-in-law doesn’t want you to tell you how to parent, but she needs you to simply affirm that parenting a newborn is hard and to rock the baby so she can take a nap. Maybe that person whose mess you’ve been cleaning up over and over needs space to grow through their own mistakes. Perhaps you discover that you have a role to play, but it’s by invitation.
2. Step into your own assignment:
That leads to the second thing we can do: We can discern what is our assignment and what is not. We can pray. We can lead by example. We can speak gentle truth (when asked). We can encourage. We can set boundaries, if needed. And if we sense God asking us to come alongside in tangible ways, we can do that too. Most important, we can allow God to step into his role without our interference. God knows what is going on – in a church, in a marriage, in your relationship, in that child, in our own hearts. We may not be able to fix an extended family member whose words hurt our heart, but we can pray for wisdom on how to respond. We can ask God to heal that wound. We can ask for direction.
But fixing him or her? That’s going to be God’s job.
3. Ask God to do a work in your own heart:
For me, giving up the fixer role wasn’t easy, but it was absolutely freeing. I’m still a helper by nature, but I’m no longer compelled to make sure the whole world doesn’t hurt, fall, or tumble down. I’ve realized that not only is that not my job, but there is no human capable of this task.
As we lay down the fixer role, it’s with the realization that it will take time. We’ll lay it down again and again, until one day helping others is no longer complicated. We are no longer juggling.
If fixing others has been your go-to, invite the Holy Spirit to shine a light on what is fixing versus what is love, what is healthy and what is not, what is coming alongside versus what is trying to control – and as you hold that up and release the need to fix it all, God is free to do the miraculous work he wants to do in and through you.
Photo Credit: © Getty Images/oatawa
Suzanne (Suzie) Eller is a speaker and bestselling author of 11 books. Her latest is JoyKeeper: 6 Truths That Change Everything You Thought You Knew About Joy. She’s the co-host of the popular More Than Small Talk podcast with Holley Gerth and Jennifer Watson. Suzie is the founder of TogetHER Ministries. You can connect with her at tsuzanneeller.com.
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