"Every so-called love that seeks to do for others what needs — crucially — to be done by oneself is blind to its own ego needs. When I seek to help others, what need is that meeting in me? Do I need to appear stronger? If my child fails, am I afraid of how that reflects on me, on my family? If we're not asking these questions, we're dangerous in love.

"In twelve-step terminology, that kind of 'love' is called enabling. It's helping someone to death. Some of us have friends or family in that extreme plight. And all of us deal daily with ordinary people who need to hatch. Our job is to coach some and cheer for progress but mostly to leave them alone. Beautiful, life-giving neglect.

"It was fun watching the chicks peck, wriggle, and kick their way into this life. But then I'm not a chicken. It's much harder when one of your own is on the dark side of that shell. Then it can hurt. Then it's life and death. Then we want to reach out and help . . . just a little. Our hearts actually get in the way; we forget that no one can break anyone else through.

Parents cannot do it for adolescent and adult children; husbands and wives cannot do it for one another; neither can friends. We cannot stop drinking for someone else; we cannot find someone a vocation; we cannot stop (or start) eating for another; we cannot lift the pall of depression or assuage the unspeakable pain of a single other person. If they are going to break into freedom, they will have to hatch themselves. We can keep the egg warm, and we must pray — but with hands folded behind our backs. For this is the only way we may approach mysteries that we cannot touch."