Savior Complex

Of all the great books I have read in the last several years, the one that has affected the most profoundly is The Cure, by Athol Dickson. The reason is that I identify with the main character in the story, Riley Keep. After a series of catastrophic mistakes, Riley experienced a change in his life that allowed him the luxury of righting some of his wrongs. He wanted to “fix” people’s lives and correct mistakes from his past.

I don’t know exactly when it began for me, but I too have this desire to “fix” situations and people so that they don’t have to suffer the consequences of their actions or be in need; not if I can do something about it. I want everything to be perfect for the folks I love.

While that may be a noble sentiment, it took me years to realize that if I attempt to fix everything for my loved ones, they may not benefit from the challenges they face nor learn a single useful thing to help them thrive in the years ahead of them. What they do learn is that someone will fix their problem, and they don’t have to worry about a thing.

Riley blew it big time in his attempt to fix all his wrongs. His actions were not malevolent; he really thought he was doing good things for the folks he loved. But he didn’t think forward far enough to consider the consequences of his “fixes;” and there were pretty substantial difficulties that resulted from his attempt to help. Among those he attempted to save from her situation was his daughter. When Riley offered to fix the struggle his daughter faced, she wouldn’t let him. Her response to Riley said it all:

“I think sometimes the right thing is the wrong thing. I made a bad mistake. I need to live with this, you know? Not take the easy way out this time. I think that’s how God shows you the way to be a person.”

Those words stopped me cold. I read them over and over, and I was totally convicted by them. The impact of those words forced me to face in myself a serious flaw that I needed to acknowledge—the savior complex. I just want everything to work out right, you know? As I reflected on this I realized that what I consider right for those I love may actually be exactly where they will eventually settle, but the path they travel is going to have to be their own. I can love them, I can pray for them, I can encourage them and maybe even offer advice, but I can no longer attempt fix their problem.

In Athol’s books, life doesn’t end up wrapped in a neat little bundle with everyone happy and living perfect lives. Because life isn’t perfect. Even though the story of our lives ends up in perfection for those who know the Lord, the journey is anything but smooth. Life has pain; disappointment often rules the day; the struggle of loss is very real.

I am out of the savior business, so when I feel the urge to step in and “fix” something, I breathe the prayer Riley prayed when the struggle overwhelmed him, “Rescue me.” The cure is not in the quick fix–not for me nor those I love. The cure is something we must work out in the trenches of life, through the grace and help of God. When I feel the urge to step in and “fix” a situation, I am learning to pray, “Rescue me.” As Riley said, “The Lord alone is our cure.”

 

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12 Responses to Savior Complex

  1. TWH_PhD says:

    Great post! Thanks for sharing!

    I’ll remember this the next time you try to “fix” me 🙂

  2. Bobbie says:

    Loved this entry, thanks so much for sharing, I think most women, especially moms, try and be fixers. One of the biggest mistakes I made (although my girls all survived me and have turned out remarkable people) was to not let them suffer the natural consequences of their actions and decisions sometimes. I still fall into the trap with them and others and this was a great reminder.

  3. David Levi says:

    Claudette, I believe that I will need to find and read this book.

    I also grew up as a “fixer,” one who would take things apart and find out what was inside, and if something was broken, devise a way to fix it. I’ve always been the person who is called in when something doesn’t work properly, running in with my tool box and duct tape, and making the fix, just in the nick of time. I always loved that “savior” role; it gives me great satisfaction to see a smile on someone’s face when I say, “The problem’s all gone. It’s fixed and working.” I have always thought of this as a “guy” thing; when a problem arises, we go right to work fixing, while our female counterparts will often stop, step back, comiserate over the problem, let their emotions run with it, and then think long and hard at finding a solution before ever taking any action. Men tend to skip the comiserating and thinking steps and jump right into action, going right to the tool box.

    As I have grown older, I’ve also tried the “fixer” approach with some people, but with much less success, and too often opening up my heart and having it stomped on. One of life’s hard lessons is that a person’s problems can’t be “fixed” like a malfunctioning appliance. Yes, we can (and should) provide a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, walk alongside and accompany someone through the problem, and maybe some words of comfort or good advice, but people need much more time to heal and there’s not a tool in my box that can make this type of fix. Only God can perform this repair; we may assist, but we’ll never make the repair. We all must remember that we can never take God’s place, and we need to turn our problems over to Him and let Him “fix” our minds and hearts. Yes, God often works through people, but it starts with God.

    I don’t remember where I read it, it was in a book that I studied in a church group about 15 years ago, but I’ll never forget this: When life presents you with a mountain that must be moved, don’t focus your thoughts on the mountain, but on the “Mountain Mover.”

    Thanks for posting your thoughts and letting us know about “The Cure.” God bless

    • David, thank you for that wonderful reply. You were always our “go-to” guy when it came to fixing things and we have been more than grateful to have you and Maggie a part of our lives for all these years. More for the fact that you two are one of the most godly couples we know than anything. We’ve learned some valuable lessons from your lives.

      It would be nice if we could fix people like we do things, but as your comment pointed out, that can’t be done. It’s taken me a long time to figure that out. And it has caused me no amount of chagrin to think how I’ve meddled in the work of God in the name of helping others.

      Loving and encouraging folks I can do and will do as long as I am able. Fixing them is something I have retired from, because God does it with such better results.

      Love you, brother. Thanks for the thoughts. Hope we can see you all sometimes after the first of the year.

  4. Claudette – thank you for pulling myself out of myself with this post. The Cure will stick with me forever also (and like Hanne, the communion scene brought me to my knees.) Because of you, I see now that my need to “fix”, goes way beyond me. I want everyone to be perfect, even if it takes me “helping” them. Bless you!
    Cat

  5. Paula says:

    Great post! I too am a “fixer.” God’s been opening my eyes to so much of this problem, things I had never even realized. Anyway, it’s always good to know we are not alone in our struggles. 🙂

  6. Tim George says:

    Character’s names rarely stick with me. Sometime I watch an entire movie or 3 episodes of a TV show and then have to ask my wife what the main character’s name is. But, Riley Keep will always be with me. Thanks Claudette for reminding me why. Like you, I have too often thought I could “fix” things. And like Riley, I too often have find myself breaking a lot more things than fixing in the misguided effort.

    • Hanne Moon says:

      Claudette, this book affected me profoundly as well. Like you, I want to “fix” all the hurts and wrongs in my family’s lives and the world at large. Here recently I’ve become so despondent because, I have figured out, the world and my family just will not cooperate! I have become dead inside much the way Riley was. I thought the feeling was because I was exhausted, depressed over the way I perceive the world going to hell in a handbasket. But it wasn’t that. I was despondent and dead inside because… I was dead inside. My life and religion had taken on the attribute of works and then when I realized I had been here before (over and over again), I pretty much lost it. I just felt like surely God had washed his hands of me when I can’t even learn so simple a lesson that works, without faith, is dead. The part of the book that got me, that sent me squalling like a baby? When he drinks the communion wine at the end. The paradox, that we have to be weak in order that his grace and mercy and strength can work in us, was such an eyeopener, and for the first time I could actually understand what that meant. It was like an answer to prayer. I am a fixer, I am flawed beyond measure when it comes to that. I want to save everyone… but I can’t. The answer is not more doing, but accepting my weak nature and submitting to the blood of Christ, drinking it down until it fills me, and then living each moment in submission to Him. Instead of retreating from a world that I feel has gone “bat-crap” crazy, he gives me the power to work from within it.

      Your post is wonderful, and I will definitely share this one on my wall! 🙂 God bless!

      • Thanks, Hanne. When I think back on how often i’ve tried to fix things for folks and how it has gone wrong so many times, I am ashamed of myself. You’d think we’d learn, huh? I’m with you–when Riley drank that wine, my first thought was that he was trying to kill himself. Then when it hit me what he had done and WHY, I just stared at the wall for a while processing the gut-wrenching dependence of that decision. The book has definitely struck a chord with folks, that’s for sure. Athol did a great service with this book.

      • Hanne and Claudette, I’m so glad you both understood the meaning in Riley’s decision at the end. Not every reader gets that. Even one of the publisher’s vice presidents took me aside one time to say he thought it was a mistake. He thought Riley should remain “cured” of alcoholism because, after all, God doesn’t want us being addicted, does he?

        Of course, you understand the flaw in that thinking: he was focused on the wrong addiction.

        Alcohol, sex, material possessions, work, even a parent’s love…in this fallen world, sometimes the cure is the addiction, and the addiction is the cure, and round and round we go from one “cure” to another, distracting ourselves from the problem. Any “cure” that leaves us numb to our ongoing need for God’s grace also leaves us numb to the abundant life He wants for us. Some things can’t–and shouldn’t–be “fixed,” because they are the very things the Lord can use to mold us back into His image and likeness.

        Beginning with the false assumption that all pain is bad, unbelievers often point to suffering as proof there could not be a good God. Believers point at suffering and say the exact opposite. One of the good reasons suffering exists is to prove there is a God of love. This is why Jesus said, “Take up your cross and follow,” and why Paul boasted of his “thorn in the flesh.” Human nature being the egocentric thing it is, without suffering we would forget the most fundamental of all truths about the problem of evil: the Lord alone is our true Cure.

        • Thank you, Athol. I am honored you would take the time to visit my page and share your thoughts. Please keep writing. I believe The Cure has affected many lives. Thank God that He used you to share this message. It has truly changed my life.

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