The Subtleties of Usurping Initiative

I need to be aware of the subtle ways I unintentionally usurp another person’s initiative.

Regardless of whether or not I intend to be helpful, when I do for another person what they could do for themselves, I’m not being helpful. In fact, I’m actually hindering their growth. I will share a few examples.

My husband and son were serving in a church program for children. We received an email stating the date that the two of them would present the lesson. I almost answered it to let them know Tom would be out of town. Thankfully, before I did, I noticed the string of emails below it and saw that Tom had already worked out an alternative date. Even if Tom had not answered, the correct thing to do would be to simply ask Tom if he saw the email and then leave it in his hands. That correspondence had nothing to do with me, so it was not my place to answer it. To do so would be usurping his initiative.

Another area where I have been guilty of this is by playing middle man (a very dangerous position to be in, especially if not invited to do so). When raising children, a mother is often called upon to be a peacemaker. It takes time and conscious practice to step out of this role when dealing with adults (our adult children or other adults). I am learning that adults must decide for themselves if, when, and with whom they wish to share their feelings. It is not my place to share one person’s feelings with another without their permission, even if my desire is to help them work things out. To do so would be usurping their initiative. (I would also be guilty of breaking a confidence by sharing something without permission.)

Often, I’ve heard wives state that they wish their husband would be the leader of the family. I think part of the problem is that we wives must first learn how to stop leading. It takes patience to wait for someone to take the initiative, but I’m learning to pray and wait, rather than just jump in and take charge. I’m also learning how Tom perceives some of my casual comments, and I’m trying not to make them. For example, once, when we were at the beach, Tom was given a booklet he didn’t want. As we walked along, I said, “There are trash cans if you want to get rid of that.” He made a sound that indicated he didn’t want to do that, so I kept quiet. If he wanted to carry it, that was fine with me. A few trash cans later, he dropped it in the trash can and jokingly said he was depositing it in the circular file. I said nothing, but I started pondering why he often ignores my suggestion and then later does what I had suggested. I decided that, while it may be subconscious on his part, it flows out of his God given drive to be the initiator and the fact that he doesn’t like to be told what to do unnecessarily. Tom agreed with my assessment. In regard to this incident, he was capable of deciding for himself if he wanted to get rid of a booklet or not.

Sometimes letting others take the initiative involves the courage to allow a loved one to possibly fail or make a mistake. I have to fight my tendency to want to rescue someone from the consequences of their failure to act. So, I might want to remind them of an upcoming deadline, for example. I’m learning to keep quiet and pray, if I have not been asked to be the person’s secretary. When they’re successful, I can praise them. When they aren’t, I can trust they’ll learn valuable lessons from their mistakes, just as I do.

I’m thankful the Lord, my husband, and our children are so patient with me. I am continually learning and trying to improve.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *