It still amazes me how Heavenly Father supplies knowledge that helps me at exactly the moment I need it and can understand it, and then uses me as a messenger to take that knowledge to others who can use it. When I was deep in the people-pleasing, fix-at-all-costs clutches of codependency, the idea I am about to pass along would either not have made any sense, or it would have been dismissed as being harsh and uncaring. Now, I see a lot of beauty in the principle.
The church has used this principle in its welfare program, in the repentance process, and probably a lot of other things of which I’m simply not aware. In a blog written by Marvin Marshall, he referred to the idea as a monkey sitting on someone’s shoulder.
The idea is that we will run into people all the time who have problems. Imagine the problem as a monkey sitting on their shoulder. The monkeys is theirs, not mine. If I take that monkey from them, they may actually feel relieved – but they haven’t learned anything. More often, trying to take a monkey off from someone’s shoulder offends the other person and causes even more problems.
Problem-solving is a skill that, when exercised, actually blesses the lives of anyone engaged. It is through solving our own problems that we learn to analyze what is happening, we learn to refrain from panicking, we learn self-confidence, and (hopefully) we learn how to rely on God who will never let us down.
Yes, solving our own problems is a struggle, and that struggle can be painful. Letting others solve their own problems doesn’t mean that we remove all of our support and leave them on their own. It means that we refrain from jumping in and doing things that they are capable of doing for themselves.
Referring again to Dr Marshall, he says that when someone walks into his office with a problem, he imagines the problem as a monkey on that person’s shoulder. If they have the ability to take care of the monkey on their own, he will spend his time with them asking questions that help that person reflect on what they can do. If not, then he refers them on to the appropriate person or agency to help them build up to taking care of the monkey on their own.
As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we have an arsenal of help that is even more powerful. We can help remind friends and loved ones of the power of prayer and scripture study, and of the need to repent and live the gospel to receive blessings Heavenly Father wants to give them.
To me, this is a beautiful, freeing principle – to let people learn and grow as much as they can and to take the role of leading and guiding if they want our assistance! Everyone learns and grows in the process!