I Wish I Could Fix Everybody

When we see someone going through a struggle, the solution to their problem often seems obvious to us.  We think, “They should just do it this way . . . and everything will work out OK.”

Hydrangeas

I used that approach years ago.  When I saw a better way of doing something, I would go to that person and make my suggestions.  I thought I was doing them a favor, and expected them to be excited and grateful.

They weren’t excited.

They weren’t grateful. 

In fact, they were usually a bit irritated.  I meant well, but they took it as criticism.

I now realize that you can’t force anyone to change.

So, is there anything we can do?Hydrangeas

My wife, Diane, loves hydrangeas.  They’re a striking flower that grows in spheres of color, usually shades of pink or white.  They can also be a beautiful shade of blue – but not naturally.

Diane wanted blue flowers.  She had two alternatives for trying to make that happen:

  1. She could use force.  She could grab the flower around the stem and say, “Look, if you don’t bloom with blue flowers, you’re going to find yourself on the rough side of the compost bin.”
  2. She could use influence.  By applying a carefully measured amount of aluminum sulfate to the soil, the blooms will usually be blue.

It’s true with any type of gardening.  We can’t force plants to grow.  But we can influence their growth with water, nutrients, cultivation, and other forms of care.  If we provide the right environment, there’s a much better chance of healthy growth.

Relationships are the same way.  We can’t force people to change.  The more we try, the more frustrated we’ll become.

But we can influence them.

That doesn’t give any guarantees that they’ll change.  If we make it our mission to change them, we’ll probably be frustrated.

Expectations always lead to pain when they’re not met.  It’s better to have expectancy.

With expectancy, we don’t know what’s going to happen.  We can be honest about our concerns and acknowledge the desire to have someone change, but we’re not demanding that things turn out a certain way.  We don’t know how things will turn out.

Instead, we’re watching to see what happens.  We don’t take responsibility for whether they change or not. 

We can’t force change.  All we can do is influence, and leave the change up to them.

Would you agree? Leave your thoughts in the comment section.

Senior Consultant at FranklinCovey; Author of "People Can't Drive You Crazy If You Don't Give Them the Keys"

  • Kathy Collard Miller

    I relate to this one. When I married Larry 42 years ago, my view was, “I’ll get him to the altar and then I’ll alter him.” (thx to Betty Coble Lawther for that quote). Thank heaven we’ve both learned we can’t fix each other. Thanks, Mike, for the always needed reminder. I still revert back to the old tendencies when my People Pleasing raises its ugly head.

  • Dennis McClure

    How many times to we in the church expect those who came “just as you are” to be blue hydrangeas. Jesus took people as the came to him, white, pink, and even sometimes blue and let them soak in his measured nutrients to become something different.

    • Great word picture. Reminds me of the early days of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, when some guests were ushered out because they were barefoot, and the pastor (Chuck Smith) invited them back in, took his own shoes off and sat on the floor with them. Grace . . .

  • Paul Schliep

    “There is no
    human problem which could not be solved if people would simply do as
    I advise.” –Gore Vidal

    This is how most of us would like to deal with our friends with difficulties but we would much rather experience grace and understanding when we are the ones with the difficult circumstances.

    • So true. So how do we reverse that . . . ? I guess we learn over a lifetime . . .

  • Diane

    Just this last weekend, I heard someone say that the difference between a first marriage and the second one was the perspective of accepting the second mate just as they are – acknowledging they may not ever change. That person is very happy in the second marriage as they aren’t expecting change.

    • It would be nice if we could figure that out the first time around . . .

  • Marianne

    God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.
    I needed your reminder today.
    Marianne Werschke

  • Carrell Halley

    I completely agree with you as I get frustrated and angry when ‘friends’ tell me if I just do it there way, things would be just fine. I often wonder, and have voiced, if it ever occurred to them that part of my process is to figure something out on my own instead of being rescued.

    • Great perspective . . . ! It’s how we learn.