I can tell you how to fix yourself. I can even tell you what’s wrong with the world around us. But please don’t ask me to fix myself.
We’re all held prisoner by something. I didn’t understand this for most of my life. I was blind to the chains that have held me — and most people are blind to whatever is holding them prisoner, too.
Most of us aren’t held behind bars. It’s not iron locks or chains that hold us. We’re held captive by invisible things in our minds and hearts. False beliefs. Self-limitations. Fears. Confusion about what we really need in life. And we’re mostly blind to those limitations. We see how other people are held back. We notice how our friends self-destruct. We even think we understand how the world needs to change.
But most of us are blind to all the ways in which we’re locked up tight in chains of our own. And even though some of us finally see our chains — and know we need to change — it’s easier to try to fix others. Or change the world.
So we hide our problems as well as we can — even from ourselves — and we lecture others about how they ought to fix themselves. I‘m really good at that.
I grew up with an inflated view of myself. I’ve told you before that I genuinely believed I was going to save the world. I say that with shame and humility today, because I now know how badly broken I was. I suspect there was a part of myself — even then — that knew I was broken and was afraid to face it.
I suspect that focusing on how to fix everything else was a great distraction from fixing all the things that had gone wrong in my mental programming as I grew up in a dysfunctional family. It certainly wasn’t conscious, but I do know that the more I see what’s wrong with me, the more I want to find outer success — because outward success somehow justifies me when I feel my most broken.
Even today — when I’ve spent so many years learning about my broken places and seeing the ways in which I need to change myself — it’s easy to slip into focusing on what’s wrong with everybody else. Like a scared child, I feel less shame when something inside me can point an accusing finger at others and I can triumphantly whisper to myself, “See? They’re worse than I am.”
It’s not that I’m wrong when I see things in others. It’s not that I’m lying to myself when I see what’s broken in the world. The real issue is that I’m focusing on those issue — at least a lot of the time — to avoid dealing with my own brokenness.
I really do see what’s wrong with you. Some of you, anyway. The closer I am to you — and the more dearly I love you, paradoxically — the more painfully obvious it is to me how you’re hurting yourself and how you need to change.
I can see what’s wrong with the communities that I’m a part of. I can see clearly the communities that I’d like to create in order to be a part of.
I can see what’s wrong with this dying culture and this broken world.
And I see what’s wrong with me, too. I’m painfully aware. I want to fix myself. I want to get past my limiting beliefs and my fears and my misguided narcissistic programming. I see all that, now more than ever.
But I struggle with fixing myself, so I tell you how to change yourself instead. I’m afraid about my painfully slow efforts to change myself. I fear I’ll fail in my efforts to become who I’m supposed to be. So I hide behind trying to change the world instead.
The truth is that it’s harder to rule myself than it would be to rule the world.
I’d like to help you change yourself, especially those who I love. I’d like to build more loving and vibrant communities. I’d love to change my part of the world. But I know I can’t do any of that as long as I’m in denial about myself.
Somehow, you and I have to work together for change — but I can’t be an effective part of that unless I’m focusing first and foremost on fixing all that’s still wrong with me. Then maybe we can all learn how to set ourselves free.