In a recent conversation with friends, someone said, “I don’t know how to keep my loved ones from making poor choices.” I took a deep breath and responded, “Focus on the bricks, not the house.”
She stared at me quizzically with the she-has-finally-gone-mad-WTF-did-that-mean look that friends are allowed to dispense to another.
I grinned warmly and explained. Scripting the lives and outcomes of others is neither your calling nor your place. Whether it’s hoping that a family member comes to faith, a friend gives up an unhealthy relationship, a spouse moves past an addiction or a child avoids tough pitfalls, you cannot map out their entire life. You are not building their house, they are.
Instead, you can lay down individual bricks. Each one is an act of love, compassion, respect, comfort, moral fortitude, wisdom . . . bricks that offer a path, if they choose to walk with you. Bricks that they can choose to use in the foundation of their own spiritual house.
If those poor choices lead to harmful behaviors, thoughtfully guide them to seek professional help. But, in most cases, you cannot force them. We each have free will and use it as we will.
Remember to place bricks gently. The most well-intentioned among us, myself included, can desire happiness for our loved ones to such a degree that we may slip into figuratively tossing the bricks at them. That breaks windows in their house and can leave bruised feelings.
Just like you might see at the entrance to a monument or museum, write a little hopeful note on the brick in your mind, like “I pray for your peace and fulfillment” as you graciously offer it. That kind of loving mortar builds a lasting connection.