A couple of years ago I spent a season visiting with a counselor in the Twin Cities.
I think it was in the third session where my counselor told me that he was going to Florida for a few weeks and would be unavailable to meet during that time. He gave me his cell phone number should I need to call.
I said to him:
“Oh, I don’t want to bother you when you’re on vacation.”
His answer back to me is something I haven’t forgotten:
“I won’t let you bother me.”
Seeing the confused look on my face, he explained a little more:
“You are welcome to call me, Jeremy, but if I am unable or don’t want to talk, then I won’t answer the phone. You can leave a message and I’ll get back to you when I am able or want to. But I won’t let you bother me.”
I don’t like bothering people, so I often won’t assert myself with another person about something I might need because I don’t want to trouble them about it. I try to prevent burdening anyone with what I need until it is convenient for them.
I had never considered this personal stance until that day. I had never thought about letting other people make those decisions for themselves instead of anticipating that I was a burden or a bother. Additionally, I had often been a willing victim of other peoples intrusions into my life instead of taking a stance against it.
What my counselor taught me that day was asserting myself in both directions.
- Making a personal decision to do or not do something based on what I need in the moment, rather than being a victim of other people’s needs in any given moment. If I got a phone call, and I’m at home with my family, it is my decision whether to answer it or not based on what my family needs at the moment.
- Refraining from holding back on making pre-emptive decisions for people based on not wanting to bother them. I needed to let people make their own assertions whether or not to take my call or have a conversation.
I learned that I needed to change how I functioned both for myself as well as for other people.
My counselor’s statement asserted his position: He said I could call him if I needed to. That was my decision whether or not I needed to. It was his decision when to answer.
My seasoned, wise counselor schooled me on how to function better and make decisions for myself as well as refraining from making other people’s decisions for them.