“Mind your own business” is life saving advice for those of us that love an addict and sound wisdom for everyone else.
Several years ago, my son invited me to attend a recovery meeting with him. I was happy to go so I could learn more about the family disease of alcoholism and an opportunity to share the common bond of recovery with my son.
After the meeting a woman who stood no more than five feet tall, with nearly 50 years of sobriety, bee lined toward my son. Her eyes locked on to his and she said, “You’re going to make it. I can still see the light in your eyes.”
Wow. This woman really knows things! She’s like an older female version of the Mentalist. She can really read people.
Then she turned to me and said, “And you…”
Oh the excitement and exhilaration at what was to come next out of this sage woman’s mouth. How would she finish that sentence? What did she see in me? A fortune cookie with the winning lottery numbers was unfolding before my very eyes. Lay it on me!
World’s best mother?
Pillar of recovery wisdom and strength?
Perfect life prototype?
Without skipping a beat she pointed her finger in my direction and said, and you…
You mind your own business!
Hsssssssssssssssss. Hear that sound? That was the air being let out of the tires of my overinflated ego. Not exactly what I had in mind. Borderline rude don’t you think?
But with a brief pause and a deep breath, I smiled and said to my new sage friend,
You are 100% right.
Not the truth I had in mind, but the truth I needed nonetheless. And did you know it’s actually a Biblical concept.
Consider 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12,
“and to make it your ambition to live quietly and peacefully, and to mind your own affairs and work with your hands, just as we directed you, so that you will behave properly toward outsiders [exhibiting good character, personal integrity, and moral courage worthy of the respect of the outside world], and be dependent on no one and in need of nothing [be self-supporting] (AMP).”
When I discovered my son was using drugs, I made it my ambition to fix him.
If only he had new friends… So I moved him to a new school where he ended up meeting new kids that also did drugs.
If only he had a car. He could get a job. Feel better about himself.… So I bought a car after every wreck so he could wreck another one.
If only he had a good job… So I helped him get really good jobs so he could have more money to buy more drugs.
If only I had a clue that I don’t have a clue!
If only I realized that drugs are just a symptom of the bigger problem – missing the heck out of God.
If only I didn’t meddle and try to rescue him.
If only I got out of the way so he could reach his bottom sooner.
If only I knew that my brand of help did more harm than good.
If only I could remember that God is the only one that really knows what another human being needs.
It’s true that hindsight is 20/20. All the things I did to try to “help” my son backfired. Looking back, I did the best I could at the time.
Now that I know better, I do better.
Minding your own business doesn’t mean that we ignore things to the point of denial. It doesn’t mean we sit in a rocking chair and twiddle our thumbs. On the contrary, it means we get busy. We get focused. With God’s help, we go to work on ourselves.
Need some help getting started on the MYOB path? Consider three principles found in our key verse…
Mind Your Own Affairs
For a long time fixing other people was my ambition. I went hard and fast after trying to fix my son and a lot of other people, places and things.
Why? It was a lot easier to try to fix someone else than myself.
Paul reminds us to focus on our own affairs, to keep our mouths shut, to stop meddling. If I’m honest, I have plenty of things to work on in myself. I need to take the log out of my own eye before worrying about the splinter in someone else’s (Matthew 7:3).
My energy, attention and ambition are better spent on how I keep myself connected and close to God. How I serve and encourage others. How I keep my side of the street clean.
Behave properly toward outsiders
How do you define outsiders? Maybe it’s similar to how Jesus defined our neighbors in the story of the Good Samaritan. It’s basically anyone that crosses your path. An outsider is then anyone outside of my hula-hoop. My business is what goes on inside the confines of that circular plastic hoop. Everyone outside of my hula-hoop is an outsider.
There are many outsiders I interact with. For a long time, you would have thought I only had one outsider in my life – my addicted son. He was my obsession. But I also have a husband. I have a daughter. I have another son. I have friends. I have neighbors. How will I behave toward all the outsiders God has placed in my life? How will you?
Paul tells us we’re to exhibit good character, personal integrity, and moral courage. I used to think my addict gave me a hall pass to act crazy. If you had to live with this, you’d be crazy too. You’d be angry. You’d want to hide. You’d be less than content. You’d be fearful, anxious, nervous and agitated all the time. You’d have nothing left to give all the other outsiders.
Paul reminds us that there is no hall pass.
I can’t control what my addict does. I can control how I treat my outsiders — with love, patience, dignity, and respect. And I do that by remembering to mind my own business and be the woman that God created me to be.
Paul reminds us to be self-supporting, A.K.A. don’t mooch off of other people. Mooching applies to much more than bumming money, meals, and lodging. I recently had an “aha” moment when God helped me see different ways I mooch off of other people by using them or manipulate them to…
Get what I want.
To look good.
To feel good.
When I look to outsiders to fill those empty places, I’m headed for disaster. I need to high tail it back to my hula-hoop and remember to be self-supporting. What I need is found inside my hula-hoop not outside. God fills up that space between the plastic ring and me. He and He alone is the one that will satisfies my soul. He is all that I need.
Do’s and Don’ts
So now I’ll say to you what that little old lady in recovery said to me…
And you, mind your own business!
Don’t give advice that isn’t asked for.
Don’t try to play God in other people’s lives.
Don’t try to control what can’t be controlled.
Don’t ignore your own issues by focusing on other peoples.
Feed your soul.
Ride a bike.
Live your life inside your hula-hoop and let your outsiders live inside theirs. That’s where the joy is. That’s where recovery is.
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