Live and Let Live
tom walsh


There's an important concept in life that seems to be going the way of the brontosaurus and its compadres:  the concept of living our own lives and letting other people live theirs without judging them or trying to tell them what to do.  It's a shame that we seem to be losing this ability, for it's one of the most important elements of living life fully--allowing others to live their lives in the best ways that they see fit.

When we try to impose our expectations or desires or judgment on others, we most definitely miss the boat on what it means to be living our lives.  The key concept to grasp is that we must live our lives, and not the lives of anyone else.  When we try to live the lives of others for them, we set ourselves up for much frustration, preoccupation, and annoyance.  We set ourselves up to be disappointed constantly, and to feel that others are somehow doing us wrong simply because they're not doing what we expect them to do, for whatever reason.

But our lives can be much less stressful if we just let others do as they will, without judging them for what they do, without trying to tell them what they should do.  We need to let them make their mistakes, deal with their own prejudices and biases, and find their own satisfactions and delights.  Just because we like chocolate ice cream doesn't mean that everyone should eat it.

Try reading some of the online comments about reviews at Amazon or about news stories on any of the major home pages.  I do this from time to time more out of curiosity than anything else, and it often saddens me to see just how much anger is expressed there just because someone thinks differently.  I've seen people called dreadful names because they post a negative review about a movie, and when I see that kind of unkindness, I have to wonder just how happy a life the unkind person can be living.

Personally, it's taken me a long time to be able to let people do their own thing without feeling that it's my responsibility (it's not) or my right (it's not) to try to "steer them in the right direction," as if I could possibly know what the right direction for them is.  I remember a student who seemed to be making some dreadful mistakes, and I was very tempted to butt in and tell her to knock off what she was doing, but I held back.  In a short time, she realized the mistakes she was making without my input.  But the most important thing to me was the fact that she thanked me for being one of the few people in her life who didn't try to tell her what to do, and for that she was grateful.

Yes, I did experience some stress watching her take a self-destructive path, but I also knew that she was intelligent enough to learn on her own.  And her words of gratitude more than made up for the stress that I felt (which was nothing compared to what she was going through!).

"Let."  It's a very important word.  It means "allow."  When we let go, we allow something to do its own thing, without our interference.  When we let live, we allow people to live their lives without our interference.  If they ask for advice, then by all means give it.  But otherwise, one of the most important elements of living life fully is to let live--to allow others to live their lives, learn their lessons, and become the people they were meant to become.

The sun will rise today without my assistance.  Other people can live their lives without it, too.

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