Let’s admit to ourselves that we carry a large number of goals for other people. We wish and desire for them to change their ways. Life would be so much easier if my son…my wife…my boss…my pastor would only…
This is especially true in the counseling office. People come to counseling to find a way to fix a problem (person) in their life. They may well recognize their own need for change but commonly find their attention turning to the one person causing them great relational pain. Counselors are no less capable of being frustrated as well. We have goals for our clients–ways we want them to act. When they do not accept our goals or are not able to fulfill them to our egocentric demands, we too can be frustrated.
Here is one solution that may provide you with less frustration:
Make your goals things that you can meet on your own.Okay, maybe this sounds a little crazy, but hear me out. Let’s say your spouse frequently responds to your questions with irritable defensiveness. You know you are nothing but sweetness and light to him/her and that the problem lies solely with your spouse. You are frustrated that they do not get that they need to change. You’ve brought up nicely and you’ve brought it up repeatedly–even seeking help from a counselor. But to no avail.
Consider, then, a goal change. Goal: I want my response to my spouse to be filled with love, truth, and an invitation to warmly try again, even if they do not accept my invitation. You have the power, with God’s help, to meet this goal. You can use this to evaluate how well you are doing?
Does such a goal change make your suffering from your spouse’s crankiness any less? No. But when (a) you accept that you have NO power to make someone else change and (b) accept that you do have power in how you will respond to such things, you receive two benefits
- You stop distressing over how to fix another person
- You use different criteria to evaluate yourself and your life (and thus may find that your own irritation is adding to the vicious cycle and your negative evaluations of your life)
Now, I am not saying that if you are suffering at the hands of your spouse or child or boss that you should just smile and take it. It is okay to speak the truth to sin. Maltreatment does do damage and working to stop it is a good thing (if necessary, by removing oneself from the situation). But even then, you can offer an invitation to a new way of relating should the person be open to hearing you.
So, if you are frustrated with others not helping you meet your goals, consider whether or not you can rewrite your goals to be something within your power to do. Warning: it can be a challenge to give up a goal for another. It feels like giving up a dream. It will be easier to give up said goal for other if you recognize that there are a host of goals available for you right at your fingertips.