As the good people in life that we are, we feel compelled to help people whenever we can. But have we ever thought that helping others in certain circumstances could result in harming them? There are certain things that we should do by ourselves, which other people should also allow us to do.
I still am not a good driver (I’m not even sure I can drive at all) because I have lots of friends and family that drive me around and continue to. I feel so enabled that I am unmotivated to learn. Sad truth!
From the book Boundaries, I learnt that there’s a difference between loads and burdens. Loads are our personal responsibilities. These are things that we should do by ourselves, for ourselves. Each man should carry his own load and let no one else carry it for him. Burdens on the other hand are extremely heavy loads that we cannot carry by ourselves. We need the help of others to carry our burdens with us (not for us) because they are just too much for one person to bear.
Now, we should help people with their burdens and not with their loads. Everyone has responsibilities that only he or she can carry, and no one should do certain things for us that only we should do for ourselves. This means that we are responsible for ourselves, and responsible to others. We are to take care of our own responsibilities and help others with their burdens, whenever we are able to.
So, what are our responsibilities in life?
Taking Care of Our Basic Needs:
Each person needs to work in order to be able to provide their basic needs. Think about the basic needs of food, clothing, shelter and even sex. Nobody should be helping you with those responsibilities. Certainly, no one should be doing the last one for you.
“He that won’t work let him not eat”. When we are able but unwilling to work, we make our load of providing for ourselves other people’s burden. It could be other family members, friends or the governmental welfare system. This is not right.
The only time it’s okay, is when you are not able to provide for yourself – when it is a burden on you to do so. But it is also tricky to even come up with such situations, because you see people defying the odds everyday to provide for themselves, even when you think they are too handicapped to do so.
Sometimes people may be excessive in acquiring their basic needs. They buy food, clothing and shelter in quantities and prices above what they can afford. Doing this sometimes puts pressure on others to help you out in sustaining a false lifestyle. If you cannot afford it, don’t buy it!
Also, don’t give more than you have to others, without taking care of your responsibilities first. I remember once when the pastor of my church realized that some people started giving huge offerings. He called them aside and asked if it was their entire paycheck they were giving. When they said ‘yes’, he asked if they had paid their rent, electricity bill, water bill, bought groceries, etc. Surprisingly, they said ‘no’. He told them that God wants them to take care of those things first, before giving so heavily to the church, because if they don’t then they become someone else’s burden. Isn’t that so profound?
Taking Care of Your Family of Procreation:
If I still recall from my Sociology classes, your family of orientation is the one you grew up in, while your family of procreation is the one you basically created i.e. your spouse and kids.
We are responsible for our family of procreation and to our family of orientation. You are to take care of and provide for the family that you created. It is your load to carry. It only becomes a burden on you when you are a single parent, for example, or when you are not able (but willing) to provide for them.
Don’t pay another child’s school fees when that child’s parents are alive and able-bodied. They will make it your responsibility and expect you to carry their child from then on. They may even become resentful when you say things like ‘you don’t have enough money to help them this time’. They expect you to finish what you started.
The truth is that you are crossing that family’s boundaries when you decide to start carrying their responsibilities for them. So, don’t complain when it seems like they are not appreciative, when they expect you to do more. Humans are territorial creatures and we do not respond logically when our territory is breached.
You are responsible to your family of orientation –to honour your father and mother. This does not mean that you are responsible for them –to take care of their basic needs. You only do that when they are not able to do so. Use your limited resources to take care of the family you brought into the earth first and then let the overflow be used to take care of others outside that circle.
Keeping Your Feelings under Control:
Hurting people hurt others. They make their emotional upheaval other people’s business; and they do so spitefully.
We should keep our emotions in check and be mindful of others around us; also, how it affects others, because we are responsible for loving others and not hurting them. Be mindful of the setting around you before you reveal how you’re truly feeling; because, in most cases, people couldn’t be bothered about how you feel.
I don’t care if the customer service officer at the bank is having a bad day. I care about being able to do my transaction as quickly as possible, and leaving the bank to carry on with my other businesses of the day. So when she ‘gives me attitude’ because of how she feels, I’m not likely to show sympathy. I’d report to her manager, so that she learns how to keep her feelings in check for next time.
Most people think it is unhealthy to bottle up your feelings. They believe it is therapeutic to yell at everyone in the office or in their homes, because, that way, they are expressing their true feelings in the healthiest way possible. But this is simply not true. Action leads feeling, and so if we act with some self restraint when we feel otherwise, we will eventually begin to feel more temperate than out of control. And temperance is both healthy for you, and attractive.
At the end of it all, it’s all about having boundaries, my friends. Make sure that you understand what you are responsible for, whom you are responsible to, and when to say “no” to yourself and to others, so that you don’t cross your own limits or infringe on the boundaries of others.
I know that these 3 areas are not the only areas we are responsible for in our lives, but they are the only 3 I could come up with so far. Do you know any other scenarios where it’s not our business to help others? Please share. And, of course, feel free to challenge me on these 3 areas if you so feel that everybody’s business is your business. I would love to learn from you too!