(photo cred: memecrunch.com)
An old friend used to say this to me quite often. It usually came while I was going on and on (…and on) about something unfair or crazy or hurtful that was happening to someone else or in someone else’s life. In typical Ashley fashion, I was up in arms and ready to race to the front lines of battle and my friend would simply say, “That’s not your battle”. Wait WHET?!? What do you mean? [Such and such] is hurting! They can’t do that to [Pooky]! I don’t see how that’s fair! I would be seething because everything within me would want to advocate (read: fight) for them, as if they could not fend for themselves.
That has been how I have operated since I could remember, especially about my family members and close friends. I would find out about an undesirable situation or circumstance and I would be off to the races and thinking about what I need to do to fix the situation. I have deemed myself a fixer and an advocate and have many times prided myself on that. Sometimes this has meant that I have acted very immaturely on matters that, in reality, had little to do with me. I will admit that hasn’t been the best way to handle things but I’m getting better. My betterment has come, in part, to hearing this phrase over and over again in my head.
I am by no means saying that you should not advocate for people, especially if they are being maligned or mistreated. Advocacy is an important part of life, especially the Christian lifestyle. However, advocating for someone and fighting his or her battles are two totally different things. What I am referencing here are those fights regarding interpersonal and relational matters (not serious issues such as abuse or violence). So here are some takeaways that I learned just by taking that old friend’s place and learning how to tell myself, “Ash, that’s not your battle.”
- Check your motives. – Ask yourself: Why do you feel such strong emotions about the situation? Is it the situation that is making you upset or because of undealt with emotions stemming from a similar personal situation? Can you feel strongly about the situation without interjecting yourself in a situation that has nothing to do with you? Will involving yourself make the situation worst?
- Evaluate the person you are willing to fight for. – What I have learned is that adults can fight their own battles. I know that’s a “Captain Obvious” statement but it is true. For example – As a PK, there have been so many battles that I wanted to fight for my parents because I obviously feel very strongly about their mistreatment in certain situations. I would get so wound up that I would become extremely angry. However, my parents are adults. They know how to fight and fend for themselves. Wisdom says that I can be upset about it (natural emotion) but I can stay out of things that do not directly involve me.
- Evaluate how hard the person that you want to fight for is fighting. – People like me, people who are passionate about helping others and tend to exhibit “savior complex” tendencies, can often be guilty of having much zeal – a little too much zeal. Step back and look at the person who you are trying to be “Joan of Arc” for – how hard are they fighting for themselves? Are they capable for fighting for themselves? You cannot want more for someone than they want for themselves. Nothing can handicap a person more than always fighting for him or her instead of teaching him or her to be assertive and fight for themselves.
- Fighting comes in different forms. – Many times when we think of fighting for people, we think of putting ourselves in the thick of it in order to produce change. However, this is not the only way to fight for a person. Pray for them. Be a listening ear (not a running mouth!). Advise them with wisdom. Encourage them to take the most mature course of action. These are all ways that you can be fighting along with a loved one or friend without actually taking on the battle yourself.
Life is going to give you enough of your own battles. Learning how to exercise wisdom on when to fight, how to fight, and whose battles to fight will make life so much easier. Trust me. This has been something I have been learning forever and I still haven’t gotten it completely right. Be sure that while you’re out fighting for others that you’re fighting your own battles too, even if the person you have to contend with is yourself. Each day we struggle to be better (not perfect); don’t lose. That is your battle.