Walking with someone through suffering is an incredibly delicate process. Because it not only affects the one experiencing suffering, it can affect those supporting said sufferer. When someone is struggling, their load is heavier and they need to share it. As a friend, you will take some of the burden to lighten their load. Well, a true friend should do this, anyway. The same goes for the relationship between a client advocate and the client. One of the phrases I’ve noticed commonly used is “I feel like such a burden.” Our response as a client advocate is “no, you’re not a burden, but the load you carry is very heavy, and I’m honored you entrusted me to share that burden with you.”
Earlier this year, I was given the opportunity to speak to students at our local public high school. During this talk, I addressed the need for healthy boundaries and proper self-care. Through this blog post, I want to share with you, our supporters, a few insights I shared with the students.
Over my short lifespan, I’ve experienced walking with friends through different forms of suffering, and I’ve quickly learned boundaries are the best possible way to support someone else while taking care of yourself. I believe sharing one another’s burdens is an opportunity to show each other love through service and sacrifice. And this can be applied anywhere, not just for those experiencing life altering suffering. Let me give you an example:
When the cooler weather began this winter (relatively speaking), my husband took the car into work rather than his motorcycle. Without a car, I depend on rides from co-workers daily to get to my own job. Having to depend on someone else for everyday transportation can feel burdensome, because you’re dependent on that individual. I have the ability to walk, but more often than not, a co-worker will pick me up since my home is along the way to work. These ladies could be thinking 1 of 3 things: 1) man, picking up Mackenzie sure is a pain, but somebody has got to do it! 2) picking up Mackenzie is fine, just so long as she doesn’t inconvenience me or 3) I’m glad I get to pick up Mackenzie, because through this act of giving her a ride, I can show her that I care. Besides, she’s just the greatest and my mornings are so much better with her around!
Ok, so I may have added that last part in, but they could be thinking that!
Galatians 6:2 (NIV):
2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
In my opinion, the word “burden” carries a negative connotation. But we’re called to carry one another’s burdens. Some are heavier than others, obviously, but it’s what we’re supposed to do. I wonder if we should start changing the conversation about the word “burden.” Not something to be ashamed of, but view it as an opportunity, a way to show Christ’s love in a specific way to that person in a way they’ll appreciate it most.
I’m really writing this as a reminder to myself, because I want to continue bearing one another’s burdens. But I need to set boundaries, because I’m only able to help others if I can properly take care of myself. I used to feel guilty for setting boundaries because I felt like I wasn’t being a good friend, not being available every hour of every day. But setting boundaries is not weakness, it’s strength. In Tim Keller’s book, The Meaning of Marriage, he refers to a “love tank.” I can only love people more fully if my own love tank is being filled. In order to do this, I need to spend time filling my love tank through reading the Word, spending time in prayer, seeking God daily, and fulfilling my duties as a wife, employee, sister, daughter, niece, aunt, and friend to the best of my ability. I can love others because Jesus loves me, and He is my source of love. Because of His sacrifice, my love tank is constantly being filled, no matter how often I’m let down by others. Following the same line of thought, I think of setting boundaries as a “service tank.” If I want to better serve, I need to take care of myself, so I can be refueled every day for another day of service. I repeat, setting boundaries is not a sign of weakness. You’ll be able to help more if you’re fully present and fully focused, but you won’t be if you’re constantly being drained. Instead, you’ll be exhausted, weary, and resentful.
There is always a burden to be shared, and I want to help carry the load to the best of my ability.
Let’s get to it.