How has life been this week? Working through any disappointments?
It’s hard for me to watch anyone be let down. I tend to take responsibility for reversing such situations even when it’s not my responsibility to bear. I also will carry an unhealthy level of guilt if I discover there was something I could have done but didn’t do to prevent someone in my life from experiencing disappointment.
The desire to serve others in this way includes everything from helping co-workers with daily responsibilities to being there for friends in need to keeping up with all that happens with extended family.
My hubby, Jason, and I have been known to drive five hours one direction to spend Christmas Eve with one side of the family, stay until everyone goes to bed, and then drive seven hours over night another direction to make it to Christmas morning breakfast with the other side of the family.
I know, many of you are shaking your head right now and scolding me for that kind of nonsense. But ask any young married couple about the struggle over where to spend various holidays during the first few years of marriage — it can be a difficult season of life transition.
In our case, we couldn’t dream of disappointing either side so we found a solution that kept everyone happy — at least we thought. We soon realized we actually caused anxiety for both sets of parents because of all the travel we were doing with no sleep.
And while it has been almost two decades since first facing those kinds of family-related decisions, I continue to fight an internal battle every day about how I can best serve those around me. The difference now comes with tough life lessons teaching me to work with the information and resources I have to determine what is best for everyone involved, not necessarily what prevents disappointment.
I still hurt when others are unhappy and I always want to “fix” things but I’m learning to step back, assess the situation and pray for guidance about my proper role. So many times I have rushed to take care of something or someone without working through it with God first.
God has provided several life-altering, face-on-the-ground-grateful-to-Him opportunities to serve since I gave Him my heart and life atage 19. The most profound opportunity revolved around Belle, my precious niece who snuggled her way into countless hearts during her courageous five-and-a-half-year battle with cancer.
So when I can evaluate such impactful seasons such as what God gave me through Belle, why would I dare snatch every random opportunity to help as if they were really all for me? Could I be swiping another person’s chance to serve and thus be stealing his or her blessing?
And why would I not strictly follow Him to the specific areas of service He has in store?
I’m sure part of it is because of the desire to prevent unhappiness in others. Another aspect is likely a need to be needed or the fulfillment that comes with making others happy. And then there is the extreme need for efficiency I have as well as the ability to quickly assess a situation — these two traits allow me to solve problems quickly.
But as one of my mentors always reminds me, “strength overdone becomes weakness.”
Another lesson I’ve learned in recent years is to be mindful of each person’s tolerance level related to frustrations and what is really a call for help versus a verbal processing of anxiety.
My typical response to being overwhelmed or experiencing distress is to focus, prioritize and get to work. I will attempt to chip away at each item, starting with the most urgent and maneuvering my way from there. I intend to handle everything put on me without ever asking for help. Granted, this is not necessarily the right thing to do nor is it always possible but it is where I start.
So a lesson I learned the hard way is that while I personally will wait until it is nearly too late to be rescued before I will dare ask for help, others aren’t built that way.
Some are much healthier in their approach and know the proper time to request assistance as well as specifically what is truly needed from others and what they can handle themselves. They know the right thing to ask from the right person at the right time.
However, there are others — none I know of course (eh hem) — who start expressing fret, disappointment, unhappiness, fear, etc., the second anything changes in their day or something doesn’t work exactly right. Combine their immediate screams for help and my innate desire to take care of others and I’m forced back into an internal battle.
How do you react?
For me it is about setting boundaries and learning to hesitate unless I know it is a serious issue in which I need to assist.
For others, if you are one who reacts quickly, loudly and with anxiety to frustrations in your day, please know you are likely taking others down around you without even realizing it. Finding a way to cope through calmer and more productive methods could be your way of truly serving and improving the quality of life for those around you.
—Jennifer Davis Rash