Melinda’s parents had done all the “right things” in raising her: private schools, tutors, violin lessons, encouragement with homework, diligent follow-up with teachers, and more. They certainly prepared her to fill out an attractive college application, because she was accepted to an Ivy League school. She then graduated and was expected to get a prestigious and high-paying job and to “do the family proud,” as we would say in Georgia.
But although she had been prepared for the regimented system of higher education, she had been completely unprepared for the more chaotic system of life her internal emotional pressures had been steadily building from birth, and upon graduation from college, she collapsed. She couldn’t function in a job interview. Eventually, she couldn’t function at all, trapped by fear in a single room in a boarding house. She was emotionally crippled, barely able even to shop for her own food. When I met her she hadn’t worked in years and had given up applying even for menial jobs for which she was vastly over-qualified.
I spent several days with her, mostly loving her, flavored here and there with a bit of teaching. She began to trust, then to smile, then to laugh. When she went home, we spoke by Skype every day. After a couple of weeks, I asked her what she did all day. She wasn’t doing much, so I suggested some reading and physical activity.
A few days later I suggested that she go to a local temporary employment agency, to begin the process of finding work. She visibly froze.
“You think I want you to get a job, don’t you?” I asked.
“Like everybody else has pushed you to do, right?”
“You want to know why I’m suggesting the temp agency?”
“For you. To build your confidence.”
She scowled. I didn’t understand at first, but then I recognized her expression. “Other people have told you that if you got a job, and you did well at your job, you’d get increased confidence in yourself, haven’t they?”
“And you’re afraid I’m doing the same thing.”
“Silly girl. I don’t care if you get a job. Not even a little. Not for a sense of competence. Not that kind of competence. I believe, though, that simply applying for a job—or maybe working at one—could be a great chance for you to do what you’re afraid of. You’re terrified of failing, afraid of applying, afraid of being around people. If you do all that anyway, it gives you a chance to practice carrying love into all those situations, and you’ll feel the confidence that comes from feeling loved in situations that used to scare you. THAT is all I care about. It’s about love, not about a job.”
The next day she called and said that she’d filled out all the applications at the temp agency—for hours. And she hadn’t been afraid. Her confidence had grown, as hoped. She loved it. The day after that she called to tell me that the next day she was being sent by the temp agency to a company for a four-hour working interview.
“Cool,” I said.
“I might really suck at it,” she said.
“Yep, you might. But you will have tried. And you’ll be stronger for it.”
“And if I hate it after an hour, can I just leave?”
“So I’m just practicing? Practicing not being not afraid?
“So you don’t need me to get a job?”
“Nope. All I care about is whether you’re happy, and every assignment I give you is to build your confidence and decrease your fear. So you can be happy. The job is nothing.”
If love is our primary focus, everything else we do goes better. We grow in confidence, peace, and joy. If love is not our focus, it tends not to matter what else we do, because we won’t be happy. We can succeed at everything else in life, but without love we have nothing.
Contact Greg to have an intervention
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