When I have a question banging around in my head, my brain runs like a hamster on a squeaky wheel. Right now, I need to find an answer or shoot the dang hamster. I’m sick of waking up in the middle of the night thinking about it.
Many times over the past year, I was asked if I had only agreed to be someone’s friend because I wanted someone to “fix”. I insisted that I didn’t, but that this person had come to me needing so much help and I helped because I could. I helped because I felt it was the right thing to do. I helped because I like knowing that I’ve made a difference in the life of another. Mostly, I helped because I knew what it felt like to be alone in the world when my life was falling apart and I had no one who would help me.
I enjoy helping people and have a history of “being taken advantage of”. This means that while I sometimes request boundaries, I don’t actually enforce any. When the other person challenges, dismisses, ignores or “forgets” my requests, I feel as though bringing it up again will create a big conflict. That makes me feel angry and resentful, which manifests in my speech and actions. Then I get accused of only “helping” the person because I wanted to “fix” them.
That’s another theme in my life. Someone asks for my help (in the beginning anyway– they ask me for help) and while I pitch in, I also make suggestions for how they can avoid having the problem in the future. I have learned that most people who ask for assistance don’t want to know how to prevent problems, they just want relief from their current situation. They definitely don’t want my know-it-all “insights” into why his/her life isn’t working. I try to present it in love, but I am a very blunt “so there it is” kinda gal. It frequently does not go well.
I have learned that this is called “Co-Dependency”. I now know that I am the one that is getting myself into these messes; I have no one else to blame but ME. I really need to abandon this cycle. It’s really, really not working for me.
But how can I be compassionate and NOT co-dependent? I’ve been involved in some hard-core personal development workshops and they are helping significantly. I am working on strengthening my “boundaries” and I know that I can not be taken advantage of without my permission. But the work I’ve done doesn’t really address the issue of compassion.
As a Christ follower, I am commanded to be merciful and offer help to the helpless and needy. Where do I draw the line? How can I please God with my choices without getting sucked into the co-dependency cycle? I know that Jesus Christ Himself didn’t help EVERYONE He encountered. As God, He had the discernment to know who to help and who to pass by. Why did He pass them by? I don’t know, maybe they weren’t ready for it yet. Not being God, I lack that level of discernment.
Over the years, I have given money to people who claimed torturous poverty, only to find out they made more money than I did or had a serious drug addiction. I’ve given of myself in other ways, too, only to realize later that the agony that the person endured each day was brought about by the continual and consistent choices they made. My “helping” them was, in reality, only encouraging them to continue their heart-ache.
Christ had the wisdom to see when to help and the specific help needed. He passed by all the others (seemingly) without remorse. It is written that He did no miracles in Nazareth because of their unbelief. Were there no sick people in Nazareth? I doubt it.
I don’t want to be like those hypocrites that pray for the poor, but keep their purses tightly locked. I don’t want to keep anyone who doesn’t have their act together at arm’s length. I want to make a difference in the world without getting the life sucked out of me by (intentional and unintentional) users.
Where is the balance?
That’s the BIG question; the question that pulls relentlessly at my heart.
My book, Dating, Sex, & Jesus is now available at Amazon.com. Please “like” the Dating, Sex, & Jesus Facebook page at: www.facebook.com/DatingandJesus for fun and interesting content and book excerpts in your feed. Thanks!