Getting Out of the Way: Helping by Being Absent

on January 22 | in Community Awareness | by | with Comments Off on Getting Out of the Way: Helping by Being Absent

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Every day I spend time with my son – it’s a highlight of my day, it’s a core of my daily heart. On the weekend, I get more and better time since I’m not tired from a hard day of project management and web development. Last weekend, his cousin wanted to play with my son and my son wanted to play with his cousin. So, although it was hard, I got out of the way and moved to a peripheral position.

Getting Out of the Way with our Loved Ones

The line between being a positive presence in our loved ones’ lives and using their positivity to bolster ourselves is a very thin one. By interfering with the childhood play of children, I wouldn’t have given my son anything he doesn’t usually get from me – and in fact I would have taken away his time to be rowdy and foolish with someone his own age. Although I was very tempted to make the call of “Dad and son” time, I was later glad that I didn’t. He needs time with other kids for his own social awareness and needs closeness with more people than his parents- and looking deeper, it was purely selfishness and enlivenment of my own spirit that inspired my desire to keep him to myself.

My son’s still quite young, and I’m sure there’s plenty more of those moments on the way. I’m glad I had the realization that although I derive great happiness and spiritual benefit from time spent with my son, there’s a greater spiritual development for both of us sometimes in not spending that time one-on-one.

Looking again at it, I see that I’ve been tempted and actually committed the error I thought of with other family members and friends. I got to thinking about that old quote “If you love something, set it free” (not sure who said it, there’s a bit of argument about that apparently). That quote elaborates on how possessiveness prevents us from understanding the true relationships in our lives – that is, whether or not we’re “meant” to have someone or something. But also, without that elaboration it stands alone on the point that we interfere with the growth of those we love if we insist on always being a primary participant. That’s a terrible thing, obviously, since we want the best for our loved ones.

Getting Out of the Way at Work

Moving on from that poignancy and enlarging it to the greater sphere of our lives, it’s also true that this happens all the time in workplaces. I’m tempted to ascribe this deficiency purely to leaders, but of course that’s not true.

Let’s start with leaders, though. Micromanagement is the ultimate way managers and owners get in the way. By not trusting employees and contractors, or by not granting them any volition about how to develop the business, leaders simultaneously sabotage themselves, their business, and of course their staff. Leaders who micromanage hurt themselves by making it impossible for them to spend adequate time actually developing business, which in turn reduces the business. Leaders who micromanage their staff hurt their staff by the obvious lessening of enjoyment of work, and by making their staff less emotionally invested in the outcome of their work – both of which reduce the effectiveness of the business as a whole too.

Moving to the producers (the employees and contractors who actually make it possible for the leaders to earn income), they frequently infringe on both management and each other by being unwilling to “own” their tasks. This is sometimes the fault of leaders or the cultural environment of the workplace, but also it’s just typical of some people and how they were apparently raised. Rather than trying to determine how to accomplish something independently, some folks look to others for clarification on how to get pretty much everything done. They want specific guidelines and rulebooks, but there’s always going to be situations that are not comprehensively covered yet can be easily resolved. Employees need to be empowered, but once they’re empowered more may need to be done to encourage them to take true responsibility and ownership for their tasks. That’s usually – but not always – possible with enough discussion and direction beforehand to clarify that they are in fact in charge of comprehensively getting certain tasks done completely by themselves.

Getting Out of the Way of Progress

Getting a yet wider view of the forest, there are leagues of activists out there working very hard to slow the negative impacts of climate change, improve standard working conditions, lift up the poor in third-world countries, bring humane treatment to abused people and animals, and lots more. There’s advocates for a thousand worthy causes, if you look for them – and you should, if you care about the world our children are inheriting.

Clearly, though, one cannot invest time and money into every cause. Inevitably, we must pick the causes closest to our hearts so that we can make the biggest impacts. And that’s worthy and admirable.

What about the other causes? Do they get completely abandoned? For a lot of activists, they do. You can find environmental activists proudly bearing products made using child labor. You can find child labor advocates eating beef produced from cows treated in the most inhumane ways conceivable. And on and on. Properly understood, the very least we must do for every worthwhile cause is to stay out of the way of those who are trying to make change. If your focus is on breast cancer awareness, that’s awesome and I hope that you make significant strides in furthering that cause – but without considering the other plights in the world, you’re probably standing in the way of a better world in a lot of ways.

So, if you’re not going to work on things like environmental pollution, I totally understand. But if you’re enriching people who are actively making our world worse, you’re in the way. So get out your learning cap and surf the net; just figure out how you can stop negatively contributing and, at least, pull to the side of the road to let the faster traffic pass.

Keep on keeping on,

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