Your coworker is 15 minutes late…again. That parent is allowing their child to run around the store like a crazy person. Your friend’s garage is so crammed with things you regard as trash that there is no way she could possibly park a car in there, or a bike, or really anything. Your uncle keeps drinking soda even though he has diabetes.
Any of these things could drive someone mad…especially if you don’t actually have agency, ownership, or permission to intervene or change the outcome.
In Part 1: How Not to Care we talked about how it is possible to care too much about the wrong things. While something may be worth caring about, it is not necessarily yours to care about. So once you figure out which bucket something goes in (To Care or Not to Care) – how do you actually not care about something?
Not caring is not an excuse to be rude, passive aggressive, or checked out. In fact, once you learn the art of not caring you may find yourself more at peace with the situation and able to act lovingly towards the other person. A strategic approach to not caring releases us from aggravation and resentment, ultimately leaving us a more caring person overall.
Here are three steps to learning how not to care:
Not caring doesn’t just happen to you, there is an intentional decision that must happen on your part. This is called becoming appropriately unconcerned…huge emphasis on the word appropriate. Again, this is not an excuse to make snide comments, act judgmentally, or silently retaliate. And this is definitely not an excuse to neglect something that is yours to care about. To be appropriately unconcerned means that you consciously recognize that you are not in control of the situation or the people involved. While you might make a different decision, ultimately the decision is not yours to make. A helpful tool to remind yourself that something is not yours to care about is coming up with a signal or phrase. For myself, when I am frustrated over something I simply touch my nose subtly in the “not it” sign. Perhaps you shrug your shoulders or you say to yourself “not mine.” You could face your palms up to heaven in a gesture meaning “It’s God’s to deal with.” When you intentionally choose to give it up you free yourself from feeling the pull to intervene unhelpfully and uninvited.
Feelings are often the last thing to change. You can intentionally decide to not care, and put in place the best silent signal in the world, and yet you still feel that tug to become overly concerned about a situation that is not your responsibility. This is where prayer can be enormously helpful. While you may not be responsible or able to helpfully intervene, God is able to act in ways beyond our hopes or imagination. You may start by praying ABOUT the person – venting your frustration, sharing your hurt feelings, insisting on a desired outcome. But over time you may find yourself shifting from praying about them to actually praying FOR them. Meaning you move beyond your desires and assumptions, and truly begin to think about the person. Maybe you pray blessing on your coworker, or peace for that other parent, or healing in another’s life. The truth is everyone and everything falls into God’s To Care Bucket, and he is much more capable to helpfully intervene than you are. Giving something over to God can free us up to simply love the other person because we no longer feel the burden to fix them, coax them, or maneuver them.
In the end, learning not to care is learning how to trust. Perhaps the situation will not work out the way you wanted, and maybe it will go as badly as you predicted. Or maybe not. Stepping back and becoming appropriately unconcerned and giving it over to God allows you to place the responsibility where it really belongs…which is not with you. You can be available should that person invite you into the situation, but you can also trust that they will handle the situation the best they know how. Maybe they don’t have the same level of skill or experience that you do – but there is only one way to learn. And when you step back and allow a situation to play out, maybe you will see that it resolves in a way you never expected. Maybe a doctor says the exact right thing, and that other person chooses to make a different health decision. Maybe that parent reads the perfect book for them and they feel empowered and encouraged in their role. Perhaps your coworker’s supervisor is already helping them learn how to manage their time better. When we step back and allow others to take responsibility for the things they are responsible for, we let people surprise us and sometimes correct our assumptions.
Choosing not to care about the wrong things allows you time and space to care about the right things. While it is important to discern what belongs in your Not To Care Bucket, it is even more essential to discern what IS yours to care about. The best avenue to becoming appropriately unconcerned about what you can’t control is to devote your energy, skills, and time to the things you are responsible for. Then you can focus your attention on the relationships, projects, and decisions that you have control over.
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