At the beginning of the American Revolutionary War, the colonists in Massachusetts were waiting for the British to arrive. Farmers hid muskets in barns. Merchants stocked up on needed supplies. The whole countryside stood breathless waiting for King George to assert the might of the most powerful military in the world.
Then one night it happened. The British Red coats arrived, 700 well-armed soldiers from their garrison in Boston. As the British lines advanced, riders went ahead, waking up farmers, startling chickens, and letting everyone know that the time had finally arrived.
This moment has long been remembered in the stories of Paul Revere, one of those riders flying through the night preparing a new nation for its first of many wars.
Little did Paul know that as he rode through the night, he would become one of the most iconic and lasting images of heroism and responsibility. His ride has inspired many of us to set out on a journey to declare our independence from unsatisfying jobs, mindless work, and personal limitations. And while your pursuit to build a following, petition congress, and influence your community is heroic. I have some bad news.
You are not Paul Revere and neither am I.
Paul Revere was literally responsible for thousands of lives that night. The weight of an entire new nation stood on his shoulders. As much as we’d like to think we wield this level of responsibility, we don’t and it’s a wonderful blessing.
I’m Not Responsible.
Part of me thinks I have the power to change people’s lives. Part of me thinks I have the ability to help people crack open their deepest truths and reveal what’s holding them back. Part of me thinks this because a lot of coaches promise this in overt or subtle ways. But it’s at best a hopeful lie.
The truth is that I’m not responsible.
I’m not responsible for other people’s feelings about me. I’m not responsible for the obstacles that hold back the people I love. I’m not responsible for the tears, the grief, the frustration, and the pain of anyone in my life, even if they are very close to me.
I’m not responsible, but I want to be. I want to be able to heal their wounds, I want to be able to comfort them. I want to be able to kiss their scraped knees and hold them in my arms. I want my love for them to be so strong that they never feel alone or lost again.
But no matter how much I want to be responsible I’m simply not.
Throughout your life, you will encounter many people who seem to need your help. People who seem so close to changing. They always float just a few feet away from your life raft calling and begging you to keep them from drowning.
But you can’t help them. You can throw a rope, but you can’t save them. It’s not your job. Your job isn’t to be responsible for them. You have a different job. A job that is simple and hard.
Your job is to love them. To sit quietly by their bedside, to stand next to them, and to walk with them as they move towards the things that lie behind that big black door of uncertainty.
As much as you may want you cannot change other people. On a good day it’s hard enough to change yourself.
Stop pretending you’re responsible. Instead, show up and serve them by being the person who cares no matter what fools they make of themselves. Show up be the tireless companion who will join them as they stumble through this breathtaking, heartbreaking life.