One of my gifts is being able to sense the greatness and see the potential in other people. A friend helped me realize that this is the gift of discernment. I’d always thought discernment was knowing when something bad was going to happen or when someone might take advantage of you. But there is a positive side to discernment and that is seeing the good in others and the potential in situations and relationships.
Sometimes I get a sense of the impact someone could make in their sphere of influence. Other times it’s a very clear understanding of their life purpose. It’s why I’m good at helping people define their niches. I quickly see strengths and patterns in life experiences, talents and possibilities.
With this gift, I can help other people gain clarity about who they are and what they could do with their lives. When I’m talking with someone and I share what I see, it tends to bring them hope. Sometimes, if I’m not careful, it can overwhelm them. It’s like a seed being told it will become a giant redwood. Most of the time, seeing the greatness within another person allows me to encourage them in ways that others might not be able to.
The downside to this “gift” is that when someone chooses to take a path diametrical opposed to the good they could do, I tend to let it get to me. I’m not talking about an alternate route. I don’t insist that what I’m seeing is always the highest or best path for the person – but it’s definitely one of the better ones. The problem for me comes when that person chooses a path that is detrimental to themselves and others. To watch someone spiral downward after I’ve seen the heights they could reach is one of the most heartbreaking things I experience.
Some time ago, I advised a friend who was caught in the beginning of a downward spiral. I warned her that she was starting to spin out of control, but she couldn’t see it. What she was doing “felt good” to her. This was someone in whom I had once sensed great potential and the ability to make a significant impact for good in the world. She moved away shortly after she’d begun this downward spiral and we lost touch. A couple weeks ago, out of the blue, I received a note from her that affirmed that indeed she had thrown away everything she once held dear. Everything that once graced her life with blessings had been tossed aside, holding no value to her anymore.
I felt as if someone had kicked me in the stomach. I wondered if I might need to throw up. I decided to go for a walk and use a technique my friend Judy Hansen has taught me to “cut the cord” so that I don’t have to take ownership of another person’s problems. Yes, I can care for and love another, but I don’t need to own or carry their baggage. I don’t need to let their drama drain my energy.
In a very real way I felt as if I had failed my friend. I’d seen and sensed her greatness from the very first day I met her. Yet, it wasn’t a future she wanted to experience. She chose another path. As I walked and cut these cords, the Spirit spoke very clearly to me, “Just because you see another person’s potential does not mean you are responsible for them achieving that potential.” I felt God telling me that this was not my fault. I am not responsible for anyone else’s success or failure.
Then a verse from the Bible came to mind. Paul told the Philippians to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12 ). He was their teacher, their leader, and their friend. But he knew that bottom line, what they chose to do with their lives was between them and God. It wasn’t his job to own or feel responsible for their future or their choices. He’d taught them, and now what they did with that knowledge was up to them.
As a friend, leader, wife, mother or teacher, that means I’m not responsible for anyone else’s salvation but my own. My success or failure as a human being is not dependent upon whether a friend chooses to live out the potential I see in her. I am not a failure as a child of God if someone chooses the worst path possible for themselves. My value as a daughter of God is not added to or diminished when other people take or don’t take my advice. Whether anyone’s life is improved because of what I said or did, doesn’t matter.
My job is to be myself – to work out my own relationship with God – and be who I know He created me to be. That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less. If you’re like me and you tend to take ownership of other people’s problems, I’d highly recommend a guided meditation my friend Judy Hansen has created. I find it no coincidence that she gave it to me only a couple days before I would need it so desperately to “cut the cord” on this negative situation. Having it made all the difference in the world.
The meditation takes you through a loving way of “cutting the cord” on the energy-draining relationships and roles you play. Cutting the cord doesn’t mean you abandon your friends or stop loving them. It doesn’t mean you walk away from your career or your responsibilities either. It’s admitting that what others choose to do with their lives is up to them. What roles you play in your life don’t define you as a child of God. You have intrinsic and infinite worth far beyond anything imaginable.
© Copyright 2010 Marnie L Pehrson