Involvement is tempting

Several friends of mine have been in discussions about something, and I somewhat took on the role of third-party observer. At least, that’s what I said in my last note, if you remember. Apparently, though, I wasn’t as successfully “on the sidelines” as I thought. I quickly realized how much I was interfering.

It’s just so tempting, isn’t it?

This principle of intervention is all-encompassing. Should the government get involved in free markets? Should the UN send a peacekeeping mission over there? Is it admirable or apathetic that Switzerland is so neutral (regardless of quality chocolate)?

When does “help” become “hindrance”? How involved is too involved?

When it comes to the people we care about and their sundry dilemmas, we’re commonly at liberty to voice our own additional thoughts. Problems demand opinions, even if the two belong to two different parties. Technically, our friends can have problems that have absolutely no bearing on our own lives. It’s our friends’ importance to us is that usually gives us abstract claim on those problems. The problem starts once we start claiming too much.

Lately, I’ve been noticing how overly vocal I’ve been in prescribing solutions to my friends. Sure, my ideas were never ill-intentioned, and truly meant to help solve issues. And elsewhere, I was trying to be a middleman mediator and create fairness where I thought there should be more. But uh-oh: “ideas”/”middleman”/”fairness”? These are concepts both subjective and personal, and, given my relatively complete lack of knowledge of anyone else’s head, potentially extremely intrusive. Oh, and conveniently forgettable. Empathy is important, but my life is definitely not equivalent to hers or his, and neither are my answers to all of their questions. But again, we tend to forget that each of our styles are thumbprint-unique. As a result, many well-meant interferences become catastrophe catalysts.

It’s difficult to refrain from wearing the judge hat, because sometimes “third party” status gets confused with “neutral.” It’s difficult to escape thinking you know best, even if your strategies worked so well for you in a similar situation before. We’ve all got our biases, though, and everyone operates differently. I suppose it’s a balance that must be struck between a. giving advice when it’s asked for and b. acknowledging that your advice could be useless and/or detrimental.

I’m trying to keep my mouth shut more when it comes to acting all know-it-all. Because, yes, I do know some things – things that could be useful to others. We can all share experiences that benefit others. But so many other things… pertain just to me, specifically. So no more Dr. Nina, because any more heavily-enforced diagnoses could do a lot hurt than help.

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