Seeing the best in life's challenges

Only We can Solve our Own Problems

Outrage and anger are normal reactions when we see injustice. Outrage and anger might light a fire under our butts and get us moving.

BUT solutions don’t come from outrage and anger. SOLUTIONS come from working together and facing our problems.

Today I am thinking about the overwhelming problems we seem to have, and how solving them seems impossible. So here’s what I am thinking:

We each have to solve our own problems. No one else can solve them for us. And we need to understand that we can’t solve the problems of others, either.

This doesn’t mean we don’t need to work together, however. We just need to understand which roles we need to play when working on solutions.

Let’s say I have a problem. For a real solution, I have to own my problem. I have to think about it and I have to take action. If someone else comes along and “saves” me, I don’t own the solution and I probably don’t learn any lessons either. If I do take action, and try to figure out my own problem, THEN hopefully I turn to others for information, feedback, their perspective, and maybe even some advice. I might realize that advice from others who have faced a similar problem might prove to be the most valuable. But I have to seek out the advice, and then figure out what to do with it. No one else can just tell me what to do.

Let’s just say I live through my situation and I figure out how to solve my problem. I may decide that, with my experience, I now know what’s best. I may start telling other people what to do. I may get annoyed at others who don’t heed my warnings. I didn’t want other people telling me what to do when I was in the middle of it, but now I am an expert and others should listen to me.

Sound familiar?

It’s one thing when you have a skill or expertise in a job. That’s not what I’m talking about. I am talking about having a personal challenge or problem that needs to be worked through. OK? And it’s one thing to give unsolicited advice, quite another to be a resource and share your expertise when asked.

With a personal challenge, the kind of situation where we (hopefully) grow as an individual and become wiser, no one can do the work for you.

We can’t do someone elses work, but we CAN be supportive. We can listen. We can offer feedback – using reflective listening, for example. We can offer resources or take care of logistics for a friend who is overwhelmed or struggling to handle it all.  There are lots of ways to offer support without trying to take control.

We don’t tend to think this way. We like to have opinions about what other people should do, while ignoring the planks in our own eyes.

This same concept applies for groups of people as well as individuals.

I observe what’s going on in the world today, and here is what I am thinking about:

Promoting awareness of problems is important. That’s a separate issue. There are people and organizations that play this role, and we need to be aware of a problem before we can solve it. True.

But come on, we KNOW we have a problem with police brutality. Maybe the Police Officers need to take the lead on solving that problem.

We KNOW we have a problem with systemic racism. Maybe white people need to take the lead in addressing it.

We clearly have a problem with gun violence. Maybe gun owners and the NRA need to step up and propose some solutions.

Maybe the black community needs to take the lead in addressing social issues and violence in the black community.

Maybe the Christian community needs to address hypocrisy in the Christian community.

Maybe men need to take the lead in addressing rape culture and equal opportunities for women.

Maybe the straight community needs to be leading the charge in promoting equal rights.

Don’t you dare say “Yeah, that’s right!”

about one of the above communities if it is not your own.

If you do, you are missing the entire point.


I realize this is already happening in some cases. And I realize this seems impossible in a lot of cases. I didn’t even try to list examples from Corporate America.

Part of the issue is, in an environment where everybody is looking for someone to blame,  we are far less likely to admit that we have a problem to begin with. But admitting to our own problems is VITAL if we are ever going to solve them.

This is why it is so important to stop blaming and attacking each other.

People NEED to feel it is SAFE to admit to a problem,

or else they will not own it.

What if, on an individual level, we started to focus on solving our own problems AND on being supportive, in whatever way we could, to others who could then feel empowered to solve their own problems?

The endless cycle of blame we have going, is not ever, ever, ever going to solve anything.

So observe yourself. See how often you jump into The Blame Game. See how often you tell other people how to solve their problems. Are you outraged about what other people are doing? Notice if you are taking care of your own issues—or are you ignoring them while you spend time ranting? Are you part of a group that could use some improvement?

I’m not saying all ranting is bad.  There is a time and a place.  We sometimes need to vent and express ourselves.  But some people stop at the rant, and don’t ever get to the part about working on the problem.

When you hear others complain about an issue, do you attempt to understand, or do you get defensive? Do you listen? Do you consider how you would feel in their shoes? Do you stand up for someone if you see they are mistreated, or are you just glad it’s not you?

We each need to own our own problems, and the problems of the groups to which we belong.  What if we supported and celebrated those who step up and own our problems?  What if we respected those who Speak Up?


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Speaking Up doesn’t need to be about getting angry and outraged, you know.

Speaking up might be saying a kind word to someone you know is hurting.  Speaking up might just be quietly pointing out that there are unintended consequences.  Speaking up might be pointing out that there is a different way.  Speaking up might be encouraging someone to listen.  Speaking up might be as simple as saying that there might be a different way.

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