Sage advice from an elderly gentleman perched atop a lonely mountain.
Hello friends! Today our question comes from Jacques Monphree of Ely, Minnesota.
“Dear Banaba,” Jacques writes. “Why is everyone always telling me how to live my life? Am I wrong just because I don’t do what they would do, when they would do it, or how they would do it?”
To my new friend Jacques, I say simply, “You figure it out!”
But of course, that is me making very light of your question, of which I mean no harm or disrespect.
Your question is asked easily enough, but the answer can be very complex. I’m going to guess first that your saying “everyone” is an exaggeration. Of course, not everyone would be telling you how to live. You don’t know everyone and most everyone could probably care less about how you live as long as you are not hurting yourself or others…or annoying them…at a minimum.
From there I can guess that the people who feel more free about commenting on the path of your existence are those whom you have a fairly common association with, primarily friends and family and perhaps to a lesser extent, friends of friends, as they say on the Internet.
With the commentators identified, we can begin to explore the motivations behind why they do what they do. I imagine there are about three overall personalities that motivate another to make a conscious decision to address the state of your existence. There are likely others, I’m sure, but we can probably roll most things up into these three.
- As Teacher
As a person travels along their path, they build a collection of life experiences which can ultimately lead to a place of wisdom, knowledge and enlightenment…if they do it right. Many of us seek out these people out to try and reap the benefit of their experiences so that our own path becomes easier. They are perceived as having wisdom and are usually open to sharing. However, the good teacher is not going to tell you what you should do or how you are doing things wrong.Because they are aware that life experience and knowledge is unique to the individual and the life they lead, the good teacher provides you with the knowledge and guidance you need to learn your life lessons for yourself, as they apply to your own existence, or you would learn nothing. It would be silly for them to tell you what they did in their lives with the belief that such information will resolve issues for you.
- As Protector
An extension of one who acts like a teacher is one who plays the role of protector. These people may also be reacting to your situation based on the biases and understanding of their own life experience, though less to the point of having you learn and more to the point of directly pointing out the pitfalls they experienced – or are aware of – so that you might avoid them.Because they care for you, or believe they care for you, they are willing to share with you the cautions you should heed to live a safe, healthy and productive life. Yes, some of these are obvious. If the weather is treacherous and it is clear that you should wear the right clothes outside and you must travel with extra caution, you can expect a reminder from a protector who feels they have your best interests at heart.
- As Meddler
The act of being a teacher or protector in someone else’s life is a lofty and positive thing. It can create a sense of pride and accomplishment to know one can help another and generally, you want those people in your life.However, despite best intentions, some people lack the necessary qualities to fill the shoes of the more lofty roles and instead, play the part of the meddler. They will say their intent is to teach or protect, and they may often believe that to be fact. But, the way they comment, the things they say and how they say them reflect a different reality. There is a universal theory that people of today seem to have forgotten and that is, some things are better left unsaid. The meddler says them anyway. The meddler response is less about you or helping you and more about the motivations of the meddler him or herself. It could be that your actions upset them, or the things you do and say are dramatically disconnected from what they feel to be correct and true. They could try to understand, but instead, they are compelled to comment to bring things back into alignment for them.
Remember though, traits are traits, not people. You may find a good teacher or a solid protector in your life just as easily as you could find someone who is all teacher, protector and meddler wrapped in one.
When the people in our lives feel compelled to comment on what we do, we hope that they would do so from a place of understanding, empathy, grace, discretion and support. We hope that they might ask questions about what we are doing and how we are feeling over making a quick emotional, judgement about what they see and boldly preparing a response to initiate action. To nurture rather than needle. To respond in such a way is endlessly shortsighted, counterproductive and prone to creating valleys over building bridges.
And when you receive this “help”, how you respond, if you respond, should be just as conscious a decision. When someone reaches out to you for whatever reason, you can react quickly and emotionally based on what you see and feel in the moment, you could easily toss it aside, or you could consider the spirit in which you believe the help was delivered.
If you are an adult, you are in charge of your own world. Many people will have comments about the things you do, but comments are not directives or laws, they are merely something to consider. Once considered, you make your choices and boldly step forward knowing that for you, in your pool of circumstances, you are doing the right things and living the life you want to live. If you feel bad about that, then you are worrying less about what’s right for you and more about how those who comment will further react to your decisions.
The long and the short of that is, it is none of their business.
Peace to you – Banaba
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