Fixing vs. Healing

fix-it-felixI recently had a conversation with a self-proclaimed fixer.  When he sees something wrong, his inclination is to figure out what the problem is and then fix it.  If the sink leaks, he fixes it.  If the car won’t start, he fixes it.  And if his buddy is being a jerk, he confronts him about it and does his best to fix that too.  The approach is straight-forward and the objective is noble.

But, unfortunately, fixing isn’t always an option.

Consider the analogy of the carpenter vs. the farmer as it relates to fixing and healing.

The carpenter takes raw materials, follows a well-prepared blueprint, and uses various tools to construct those materials into something useful and beautiful.  

A farmer takes a seed or seedling.  They plant that seedling in good ground.  They provide optimal conditions for growth by providing water and access to sunlight.  They provide protection.  There may even be some pruning or fertilizing.  They help the plant to grow and fulfill its potential.  The process is slow and the results can vary.

Both roles are significant and valuable.  But neither process can achieve the results of the other.  A carpenter cannot construct wheat.  And a farmer cannot grow a chair.

So, back to the idea of fixing vs. healing.

Fixing is great for things that are broken.  Healing is great for people who are injured.  Unfortunately, people often confuse the two.  It is not uncommon to hear clients describe themselves, their lives, or their relationships as being broken.  And often times they have tried everything they know to try to fix those things.  But it hasn’t worked.  And so they become discouraged and assume that their lives or relationships are broken beyond repair.

But perhaps the reason their well-placed efforts haven’t been effective is partly because they aren’t dealing with a problem that requires fixing.  Perhaps they are dealing with is a wound, an injury or a hurt that requires healing.

And just as nurturing a plant differs from constructing a building, healing differs from fixing.  Healing requires time.  It requires hurting.  And its course and outcome isn’t exact.

It is hard for a fixer to see someone they care about hurt.  Hurt often appears like a problem to be fixed.  And so they try to fix things.  And hurt does often fill the function of letting us know that something is wrong.

But sometimes, feeling the hurt is also a part of the healing process.  Sometimes, attempts to save someone from their hurt prevents that someone from being able to heal.

If you are a fixer, thank you for your good heart and the good that you do.  But (yes…you had to know that that ‘but’ was coming), if you being a fixer is about you being a helper and a relief-giver, then I invite you to learn about the healing process, and learn how to be with others in their pain rather than immediately making efforts to save them from it.