That is not my problem…

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That’s really not my problem…

Okay, I know this sounds harsh.  It’s not supposed to be harsh.  It is supposed to be honest.  Do you ever feel like you have too much on your plate?  Do you feel like you worry way too much?  Are you overwhelmed by problems in your life?  I’m here to tell you something bold: it’s not all your problem.  And you can only do what you can do.  This might be hard, and it has been for me, but it is time to separate your problems from the world’s problems, and let the responsibility drop from your plate.  The results will be life changing!

I have a friend who is highly sensitive.  He is the type of person who feels deeply what other people feel.  I can relate to him, because I am the same way.  Recently he confided in me some of his worries.  He has a trying relationship with his step dad.  This has always given him worry and stress.  But now, his younger half-sister is having some of the same troubles.  Tears filled his eyes as he shared with me how worried he felt about his sister.  He was so worried, though, that he wasn’t sleeping.  I completely understood.  It is heart breaking to watch our loved ones struggle, especially with something we have also struggled.

I think it is natural to want to carry some of their pain, to bear some of the burden so they don’t struggle so hard.  But this is an unhealthy approach for two reasons.  First, it is not your job.  You will have your own struggles and problems in life, and you will have to carry those.  But you shouldn’t try to carry someone else’s.  Second, by trying to carry someone else’s burden, you are robbing them of the experience.  Life is going to throw us all kinds of trouble and it is part of our journey to experience it.  There is no other way except to go through it, and be made stronger in the process.

The trick in this whole thing is to find the line between being supportive and loving, and bearing the burden.  Supportive acts can include listening, offering advice when asked, spending time with the person, or even joining them for difficult appointments or meetings.  If you take it too far, however, you might be trying to make a decision for that person or handle it all yourself.  If you notice that your life is being bogged down with negativity due to other people’s problems, you may have crossed the line into co-dependence.  In my experience, this can be one of the hardest balances to strike.  But keep practicing!  You should be a supportive friend and family member.  You should care about those around you.  But you have your own issues to deal with and your own lessons to learn.  You cannot learn a lesson for someone else without stealing their victory.  Let others bear their burdens and learn that they have the strength to persevere.

Someone wise once told me, “Kelsey, ask yourself: what is my responsibility in this?  And then ask: what is God’s responsibility in this?”  I have used these questions to help draw the line between supportive friend and controlling friend.  And you know what I have found?  I am happier!  And those around me are happier, too!  You see, when you give someone the opportunity to learn their own lessons, you not only empower them, but you also demonstrate your faith in them.  Give others the chance to struggle and find out what they are made of.  And even more importantly, give God the time to work in their lives.  Maybe this person needs God, even if they are asking for you to help.  Don’t steal their opportunity to grow in faith.

Be a good friend.  Be someone in the world who cares deeply.  And in this light, remember that caring deeply does not mean taking away someone’s problems.  It means standing by them through the storm.  It means loving them despite the trials.  It means believing that they are capable of persevering through whatever life throws at them.  Loving others and allowing them to navigate their own struggles is liberating.  You can only do what you can do, so do what only you can.  Give it a try.  Let me know what you find…