Confessions of a Problem-Fixer

As women, we often want to help others. But what about when our help isn't wanted? Is it possible to help someone TOO much? Click here to find out!

I’m the oldest in my family, with two younger brothers. Naturally, this meant I could boss them around. It’s my birthright, just like being a pest in the youngest child’s birthright. I’m not sure what the middle child’s birthright is; though in our family, the middle child has a lot of freedom to just say what he thinks, since no one listens anyway. (Sorry, bro. That’s just the way it is. But we still love you.)

Anyway, since I was the older sister, I always knew best. I was the teacher when we played school, the mom when we played house, and the designer when we played Lego. And when something went wrong, I also knew the best thing to fix the problem. I loved helping—saving people. I was the girl for the job.

But then something weird happened. My brothers didn’t want my help. And not in the “I’m-a-man-now” way, but they just didn’t want help. I could have the most logical solution and eagerly offer it, but they would just tell me to stop talking. (Literally.) I didn’t understand. I was being nice! They didn’t even have to ask me, I just did it because I was trying to help.

I just shrugged it off as them being dumb (and maybe I was a bit bossy in the delivering of that help). But as I got older, I realized that it’s okay if people don’t want your help. It doesn’t always mean that you give bad advice. You could have the best solution and people still want to do it themselves. And that’s okay. (Side note: We need to be careful not to become control freaks, ladies. But that’s not what this post is about.)

While wanting to help others is a good desire (provided your motives are good) is a good thing, it can have its own set of problems. And these problems have very little to do with the other person and a lot to do with you

This is a bit different for guys than girls, but girls are emotional creatures. How many of us have had friends that are always upset about something? You know, the ones who you go to hang out with and end up being their counselor…every time you see them. I mean, we all have difficult seasons of life and just need someone to talk to, but there are some people who are always down about something, from boys to their job to the weather to that bad prof. So, naturally—being girls—we jump right in and help our friends. We listen while they pour out their hearts, offer a solution and talk the issue to death three times over. This is pretty standard female behaviour, and it’s a good thing to listen to and support our friends.

But if we’re not careful, we can take on others’ problems. This can be really dangerous.

I tried it once. I had a friend who talked to me a lot and without meaning to, I took on every one of her day-to-day problems and it drained me. I was emotionally exhausted, stressed, and not myself at all. She became the focus of my life in many ways. I felt emotionally responsible for making sure she was happy.

I even had a Bible verse to back me up:

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (…) Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load. (Gal. 6:2, 4 & 5)

This was the passage that I turned to. This is why I took on others’ burdens. I did this out of love, which is the crazy part. I wanted to be there for my friend. Some people told me to just stop talking to her, but I just didn’t feel right about that. Aren’t Christians called to show sacrificial love?

My study Bible had an interesting footnote regarding those verses. It says the following:

Burdens. I.e., the excess burdens that we need to share with one another, in contrast to the load (different Greek word) in verse 5, which means the normal amount each must carry for himself. (…)

So basically, as one friend of mine put it, each person has two kinds of burdens. First, there’s the backpack. Everyone has a backpack—daily responsibilities, temptations and issues. Then, in different seasons of our lives, we sometimes have boulders. Boulders are the things we need support for; the things we can’t handle on our own. Things like being diagnosed with cancer or a loved one passing away. It’s a good thing to help each other with the boulders (burdens). It’s not okay to take someone’s backpack (loads).

One night I was doing what I should have done long before my emotional stress got to this point: I prayed about it. Not just for my friend, but also for me. I was just honest with God. “God, I am not benefiting at all from this friendship, which is okay. But it’s more than that. I am completely drained by this friendship and I know it’s not healthy. But I still need to show her love! I want to make her happy. I can’t just stop being her friend because that isn’t love, but I can’t continue on like this.”

Well, God answered. He revealed to me that wanting to make people happy is a good thing. But when you making people happy means that you no longer can make God happy or making God happy takes a back seat to making people happy, there’s an issue.

It’s okay to want to make everyone around you happy, but only when making God happy still comes first.

Make God happy first; making everyone else happy is just a bonus. Click To Tweet

I had been carrying my friend’s backpack when I was only called to be helping her with her boulders. I’m not saying that if people have heavy backpacks we should tell them to get over it and pull themselves up by their bootstraps. We can help without taking their load by praying for them. I tried to help my friend, but the truth is, I can’t help her with her backpack. It’s hers. The only person who can help her with her backpack is God.

When I realized this, it was like all the responsibility had fallen off my shoulders. I was relieved. I gave Christ her backpack and focused on my own—putting Christ back into his place in my life. Once I did this, I was able to enjoy healthier friendships with everyone in my life.

Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ (Matt. 22:37 – 39)

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