Other people's behaviour - be it that of a mainstream personality, an actor, politician, sports star or corporate executive, or that of someone in our personal circle - is always crossing our radar.
When this happens, many of us are quick to respond with a judgment - a knee-jerk reaction that reflects our need to tell that person that not only are they bad or wrong, but also how they should or shouldn't be behaving. Not only do we critique their values, beliefs, choices and behaviors, but we try to create for them the type of life they should be leading, according to "me".
Most of us who try to author someone else's life in this way find it almost impossible to observe others without reacting with observations that are replete with judgments, criticisms, evaluations or other forms of analysis. What's more, once we have finished judging, we try to take the role of advisor, educator, parent, interferer, explainer, hypothesizer, or fixer.
Author, heal thyself
So what is it about people who seem to need to run other peoples' lives - either in the here and now or from a distance? What is it about people who seem to want to "help" others but can't seem to get a handle on their own life or issues? What is it about people who aren't happy unless they're authoring someone else's life?
In a word - control. Most of these folks are to some degree out of control in their own lives and so they gain a false sense of grounding and control by attempting to run others' lives. Meddling is their fix.
Lacking close scrutiny
On 30th Street in Boulder, CO, you'll find a sculpture of a man chiselling himself out of a block of stone. He has already carved his head, torso, arms, and thighs. Holding a hammer in his raised right hand, he's ready to strike a chisel he grasps in his left hand. He is forming his right knee.
Most authors of others' lives have yet to chisel their own sculpture. Feeling unsafe, insecure, fearful, overwhelmed, lost or confused, their block of granite is incomplete. And to feel some sense of value and worth, they choose to chisel another's sculpture.
Authoring someone else's sculpture brings a fake and phony sense of individuality, self-actualization and self-determination. The opposite is the truth. Authors of others' lives are seldom self-made individuals. They lack self-direction and autonomy, rarely assume self-responsibility for their actions and are poor at self-management.
These authors are often withering on the vine of life, rather than growing and moving forward. Rather than being continuous learners or continual creators of their own life, they take a false sense of pleasure in attempting to tell others how to live. They never take an honest self-inventory. They prefer to judge, evaluate and tell others how to deal with the struggles of life than to know themselves.
For those who are steeped in authoring others' lives, perhaps this might be a good time to step back, leave those others alone and focus on your own self-authorship - to chisel your own sculpture.
- Do you tend to "author" others' lives? Are you continually judging others?
- Do you feel a need to meddle in others' lives? If so, where does that get you?
- Is self-reflection a challenge for you? If so, why?
- Would you prefer to evaluate other's lives rather than your own? If so, why?
- What one step can you take this week to chisel one small piece of your block?
- Are you a continuous learner, a "work in progress?"
- Has your chisel dulled? What can you do to re-sharpen it? Do you have the strength to lift your hammer?
- Have you stopped chiseling?
- The ultimate purpose question: Why do you think you're on the planet?
While chiselling, consider what conscious choices you can make to enhance your personal, professional, relational, and spiritual life. Will your sculpture reflect an honest, sincere and self-responsible effort to take care of your mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health? Will it address your financial and career health, your living environment, your relationship with your partner, friends and family, colleagues and co-workers?
Will your sculpture reflect your core values, integrity, trustworthiness and authenticity? When people come by to view your sculpture, what is the legacy they'll see? Will it reflect a finely thought-out, creative, resonating figure, or will it be whole, flat, and untouched because you were too busy obsessed with telling other folks how to chisel their granite blocks?
Finally, remember that everyone is in chapter three of their life. Try as hard as you might, you'll never, ever know what transpired in another's chapter one or two - ever. So attempting to author their life without a grasp of those first two chapters, will never work - for you or for them - hard as you try.
That's a good reason to close the book on other peoples' lives and author the book of your own.