The other day I received a cute graphic with the words, Not my circus, not my monkeys. The script beside the graphic said to not let yourself be pulled into other people’s dramas. Do I do that? Do I butt into people’s problems when I shouldn’t?
I began thinking about it. As a Christian I do want to help people, but I realize that sometimes, maybe most of the time, my helping isn’t really helping. Much of the time it is best to let people sort out their own problems and learn the important life lessons they need to learn. Often we get so involved in fixing other people’s problems that they don’t really learn any lessons from what they are going through. There is something about struggling with things yourself, being driven to Jesus in prayer, that brings not only resolution to problems but a new maturity we didn’t have before. Yes, there are times when help is really needed, and we need to come alongside a friend and support them, but that probably isn’t nearly as often as we think. A term I have come to use in the past is “benign neglect.” Let the person struggle and solve their problem if possible. They will come out far ahead if they do it themselves.
Over the past decade I have increasingly practised benign neglect, “Not my monkeys, not my circus.” For the most part, hanging back, praying for someone, asking Jesus to teach them the lessons they need to learn, has worked. When someone is in a truly difficult time then I am there for them, I’ll do anything I can for a friend, but a lot of the time I let them struggle a bit and learn the life lessons they really need to learn.