Friday, May 23, 2008

Lessons from Harry Potter and Laura Ingalls Wilder

"You... This isn't a criticism, Harry! But you do... sort of... I mean -- don't you think you've got a bit of a -- a -- saving-people-thing?" she said." (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, by J.K. Rowling, Ch. 32)

I remember the first time I ever read these words spoken by Hermione Granger, and the eye-opening experience it was for me. "That's me!" I thought. "I have a saving-people-thing... perhaps that's what I like so much about Harry."

It's an interesting concept -- it's one of Harry's strengths, and yet in the chapter above, as Hermione so intelligently predicted, his very strength is used by the enemy and it becomes his downfall.

I've been thinking about my "saving-people-thing" a lot in recent weeks, as numerous situations with people have come up to bring it to the surface. So many people are hurting or in need, and I find myself just wanting to fix everything, and being so frustrated when my hands are tied. Harry's situation reminds me that I need to be so careful that what could be a strength doesn't become my downfall.

I have to come to terms with the fact that some people simply don't want to be fixed, or don't even recognize that there's something that needs fixing. Other people may say they want your help, but when it comes to actually changing something about their behaviors, they give up. Some people want help and could improve their situations, but they don't want MY help, they want someone else's. I so often find myself heartbroken over situations like these, and I have to be careful not to intervene when my presence isn't wanted, and yet to be sure that people know I am totally there for them and willing to do anything I can to help them if they do want it. It's an intricate balance, one that is hard to maintain.

Depression and the ongoing emotional struggle it brings is an especially difficult issue for me to watch others battle, because I battled it myself for years and intimately know the damage it brings to one's life and relationships. Because I found my way through the darkness, and that's a battle I've conquered (through Christ, of course), I also know how different, how joyful and content, that life can be without that cloud overshadowing everything. I want the peace I've experienced over the last few years to belong to everyone who is suffering, and it frustrates me to no end when for various reasons, I'm unable to help a person find that.

Arguments and friction between people is another situation that really burdens me, especially of late, as I watch yet another one evolve... one small explosion in a war that has been raging for years, really. I think most people expect me to take sides -- to take a particular side, in fact, given the circumstances -- but I simply can't find myself doing that. I see all the sides and understand that underlying issues are spurring on the conflict, and it's all so unnecessary. If only people would accept other people regardless of their flaws, and understand that hurting someone else or getting even with them really isn't going to make you feel any better about yourself or your own hurt, the whole thing could be put to rest; and yet, this is one of those frustrating situations where I recognize that my hands are tied and there's really nothing I can do but watch, because my help simply isn't wanted.

I read this poem on another blog, and it summed up my feelings regarding this so exactly that I just had to share it. Laura Ingalls Wilder quoted it in an article where she explained the reasons behind the behaviors of a woman who had been harshly judged by people who didn't know the whole situation. It may be anonymous, but it's also been attributed to Rudyard Kipling.

Could we but draw back the curtain
That surrounds each other's lives,
See the naked heart and spirit,
Know what spur the action drives,
Often we would find it clearer,
Purer than we judge we would--
We would love each other better
If we only understood.

Could we judge all deeds by motives,
See the good and bad within,
Often we would love the sinner
All the while we loathed the sin.
Could we know the powers working
To o'erthrow integrity,
We would judge each other's errors
With more patient charity.

If we knew the care and trials,
Knew the efforts all in vain,
All the bitter disappointment,
Understood the loss and gain.
Would the grim external roughness
Seem, I wonder, just the same?
Would we help where now we hinder?
Would we pity where now we blame?

Ah! we judge each other harshly,
Knowing not life's hidden force;
Knowing not the fount of action
Is less turbid at its source;
Seeing not amid the evil
All the golden strains of good--
Oh, we'd love each other better,
If we only understood.

All I can say to that is amen and amen and amen.

And I suppose the lesson I'm to learn from this entire situation is that there really is something I can do even when... especially when my hands are tied. They can be tied together, in prayer, to another who has a saving-people-thing, but One whose hands are never tied.


Kate said...

"We are not God. We cannot serve everyone in need. We are human. Jesus modeled this for us as a human being - he did NOT heal every sick person. He did not raise every dead person. He did not feed all the hungry beggars or set up job development centers for the poor of Jerusalem. He didn't do it, and we shouldn't feel we have to. But somehow we do. Why don't we take appropriate care of ourselves? Why are so many Christians, along with the rest of our culture, frantic, exhausted, over-loaded and hurried? Few Christians make the connection between love of self and love of others. Sadly, many believe that taking care of themselves is a sin, a 'psychologizing' of the gospel taken from our self-centered culture. I believed that myself for years. Parker Palmer said, "self-care is never a selfish act - it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give it the care it requires, we do it not only for ourselves, but for the many others whose lives we touch.""

"Emotionally Healthy Spirituality" by Peter Scazzero

I thought that quote would apply with this post, too.

Anonymous said...

I stopped by for the first time this morning. This post spoke to where I am at right now. I love the way you tied it together at the end. Thanks for being transparent. Blessings.