Whose Problem Is It?

December 4, 2020

Let me start with a joke.

Abe is trying to fall a sleep, but it is not working very well. He's tossing and turning in bed.

"What's going on, Abe? Why can't you sleep?" his wife asked him

"I owe $10,000 to Moish, and I don't have the money to pay him back."

"One moment" she says. She goes to the phone, calls up Moish and says: "Moish, You remember that Abe owes you$10,000?"


"Well, I'm sorry to tell you, but right now he has no money to pay you back. I'm really sorry."

And she hangs up. Abe is in shock. He looks at her and says, "What the hell did you do that for?"

She says, "Now it is his headache.”

What is the point?

Whose problem is it?

Whoever can do something about the problem. If Abe can not do anything about this $10,000, if there's simply nothing he can do, it  is not his problem anymore. It's the problem now of Moish because he's not going to be paid, at least not now and it is now for him to do something.  It is his problem.

When you take a loan from the bank, it's not just your problem anymore. It's also the bank's problem, there's a loan that they have to collect.

We often take other people's problems to be our problem.

Assume you have a spouse that has some attitude problems. And you're upset about it. And you're eating your heart out about it.  Well, it's your problem IF you can make the spouse change their behavior or their mental state. If you come to the conclusion,  that you're not going to change them, that there is nothing you can do about their behavior, you have to reframe the problem. It has to be reframed into what you can do about it.  

When your spouse or a friend or a foreign person that you don't know very well  misbehaves, why are you getting upset? You cannot control them. You cannot change them. Why is their problem of having an attitude problem your problem? Why should you suffer because they're crazy?

Since you can not control their behavior the problem is not their mental state.  You need to  reframe the problem into what YOU can control: Do you want to live with them or you don't want to live with them? Do you  want to be married to this person or not? Do you want to socialize with this person or not. Do you  want to be in the same room with this person or not.  Your problems are those you can control or do something about.  All the others are facts of life.


Let us apply this thesis to what we see on TV.

People demonstrate against Israel occupation and treatment of the Palestinians. Why don’t you see ANY AND I MEAN ANY demonstrations against the leader of Syria who is  killing his people whole sale? Or the ethnic cleanings in Africa?

My thesis : people will spend energy, in this case demonstrate, if they believe there is a chance their demonstration will have an impact and the entity demonstrated against is going to do something about its behavior.

People believe Israel is a democratic society and thus will yield to public opinion. Thus demonstrations  and negative media. There is no use to demonstrate and spend energy on AL BASHAR, the Syrian leader. It  has zero chance of impacting his behavior so why waste energy.


By the same token of analysis, we do not get upset at a mentally damaged person, that cursed us. We know the person  is sick and whatever we say in response to their curse will have zero impact. So we shrug our shoulders, feel sorry  for the person and move on.

Now assume that you can not control the behavior of most people. Trying to change them is an up hill battle. Do not try to change them. Change yourself. It is tough enough just to do even that.


Just thinking,

Written by
Dr. Ichak Adizes