“Jon, I wasn’t asking for your help this time…I just needed you to listen.” I had once again overstepped my bounds with a friend. They did not respond too favorably to me trying to give them unsolicited feedback.
I have a tendency to do this on occasion. When I have a friend or family member struggling with a problem sometimes I go into solution or fixer mode. And many times people just want me to listen and be there for them. One thing that has helped me is pausing to ask someone if they just want me to listen, discuss a solution or give them my thoughts. This way the person is able to make the choice on what they need. Not what I think they need.
However, sometimes I wondered why I would do this with family or friends. Then yesterday I came across a quote and it felt like a light bulb went off.
“The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them: we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them.” – Thomas Merton
My takeaway from this quote is that sometimes I may be only identifying or liking the part of the person that is similar to me. And by default I can fall into solution mode and not even be aware that I could be “twisting someone to fit my own image.” So it takes intentionality for me to be aware of this idea and give people what they need. This way I am truly bringing love to the whole person.