Sunday, April 12, 2015

Don’t take the monkey

Don’t take their monkey. Give it back to them. The monkey is the problem that someone wants to share with us and give to us partial responsibility. If blame comes from failure, then it can be equitably distributed. Generally, the monkey rests upon one’s person’s shoulders until you agree to do something for the person that frees them of their responsibility. Hey! Don’t take it. Give it back. While the person tries to place it on your shoulders so that you can carry a weight that is not your own, you need to tell the person, “I want to be your friend. I don’t want your monkey.” Take it, only if you are radically free.

Ignatius wants us to become aware of the ways we are hooked by our “disordered attachments.” Both he and Christ want us to be free of them because they want us to live as liberated persons.

Many people want us to become enrolled in their dramas, but we have control over that while still being a caring friend. Let’s face it. We are helpers and we want to help others solve their problems, but can we do it in a way in which I am not drawn into an area where I do not want to be?

How do we help ourselves be free? We ask questions. Questions are our friends and grant us freedom. When someone tries to share the burden, with mercy we ask, “What do you need? For what are you asking?” This question helps the person clarify what they need. If the person responds, “I need you to talk to so and so,” you can reply, “This is what you want. What do you need?” These are two wholly distinct questions. A possible response is, “I’ll pray for your courage while you talk with so and so, but this is something that is best done by you. This is a way to strengthen your relationship with this person. I am interested in how it turns out. Would you let me know how you feel when you’ve had a conversation?”

It avoids triangulation and puts responsibility back where it belongs.

These requests can be seductive because they appeal to your strengths – an area where you are most vulnerable, but it gives the person a free pass not to deal with his or her own problem. When you hear yourself say, “Yes, I’ll do this for you,” realize that you took the monkey. It is not too late to give it back, but do it quickly. It is fine to tell your friend, “I know I said ‘yes,’ but I am uncomfortable doing that. I’ll continue to stay behind you in prayerful support. I want the best for you.”

When the conversation ends, you realize, “I did the greater good here. I am free, and I still showed my friend how much I care. I simply did not take someone else’s burdens. I have enough of my own.” This is the freedom Christ gives us.

We are freed from something so we can be freed for something else.

Remember: The magis is not about doing more and more service; it is about a deepening of the relationship with Christ.

Ministry of Consolation


The first thing the risen Jesus does when he rises from the dead is to visit his grieving mother. He tends to her grieve and consoles her. Then he consoles Mary Magdalene and the other women. Then he consoles the Eleven and the other apostles. His ministry as the Risen Lord is to console and to celebrate his victory over the world’s powers.

We share in that victory. Our goal and mission is to save souls and to console – just as Jesus did. Even a custodian at a school would say that his or her mission is to “save souls” – for that is our Jesuit mission.

Agreeing not to take someone’s monkey, frees you up to “save souls and console,” rather than being solvers of someone else’s problems. You can be a greater consoler if you become radically free. Onward and upwards. Alleluia. Alleluia.