It is the most stressful balancing act of our times: to whom, when and how to show that we care. From the arguments over whether mothers should work outside the home or not – to which family gets our visit during the holidays – to making decisions about which child or elderly parent gets our attention any given day: the one who screams the loudest or silently shows the most need. The pushing and pulling can leave one anxiously tied in knots feeling constantly like walking a tightrope of trying to do what is right, sometimes at the expense of one’s own health.
So what would happen if we did fall off that tightrope? Would the world fall apart? Would someone be offended or worse, die?
There are several threads in this mix that I have learned to pull apart, and deal with one at a time:
1. Who benefits the most? Not so much as in me vs the other person, but how many people will most benefit? This is especially helpful for the questions of which family to visit at holidays – or whether or not to take employed work outside the home. It is important to remember to include yourself in that count. As you are equally as important as your children or parents.
2. Can someone else fulfill this need? That is a really important question, especially if you are feeling stressed. The answer may surprise you. Sometimes a better person is actually nearer to the person in need or has just what they need.
3. Trust others to do their share, to carry their own burden even when they scream. This is one that many wives and mothers need to do more often. We live in a society that encourages ‘helicopter parenting’ in a most unhelpful manner. Children learn to trust themselves and build self-confidence when they have to do chores. It is good for them. It is also good for adults to do what they can. Sometimes you need to say, ‘Really, I think you should take care of this yourself.’
4. Do only what you can do well. Recognize your own limitations. If you find that you are resenting another person – or are being asked to do something which is way outside your training, time or health constraints, say ‘no’. It will be better for everyone.
5. Each person will, in the end, have to answer for their own behaviour. You are NOT responsible for the choices that other people make – nor are you responsible for righting their wrongs. Your job is to do your best in all faithfulness given the circumstances.
6. You are not responsible for other people’s expectations. It never ceases to amaze me how much other people expect their friends or family members to be mind-readers. If they haven’t asked for help, how could you possibly know it was wanted?
7. Respect yourself and your past decisions. This one has been the hardest to learn, but probably the most helpful for me. The constant looking back and second-guessing of whether or not I did right by a certain person in my life only adds to current levels of stress. This is most unhelpful because we forget all of the circumstances that surrounded those past decisions. Make your decision, move on and always know it was the right one.
“So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.”
I Corinthians 10:31