Strategy #5 for Drama-Free Living: Taking Responsibility (when you care too much)

Did you know over-serving and over-caretaking could be hurting you AND those you serve?

Serving and caring for others is definitely an honorable, Christian practice. But too much of a good thing, is still too much.

Remember the story of Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42) when Jesus tells Martha to stop working to save the world and make dinner perfect, and even compares her to her sister Mary, saying Mary has chosen better by choosing to sit at the foot of the savior Jesus as a disciple. Yikes, Jesus! Way to hit all kinds of pain points for Martha!

Jesus is not discouraging service. He did not say the work she chose was bad. No, He said Mary has chosen better. Basically, there comes a time when your sacrifice is hurting you more than it is helping others. Martha was missing out on the precious time she would have to spend with her good friend and savior, Jesus. That was simply better.

Those of us who naturally take on the role of caretaker may not realize the negative effects. Caretakers put their needs last, eventually leaving them empty and hungry for love and spiritual satisfaction. Doe this sound like you?

Giving and giving and giving, only deplete our storehouses if we do not take time to receive love and be fed by others’ service.

In this weakened state, we can begin to resent those who continuously take and take. Depression, exhaustion and outbursts aggression are a common result. Like Martha’s outburst at Mary “Help me! I can’t do this alone! Jesus – tell her I’m right!” (paraphrased)

Jesus’ response to Martha is not a rebuke for her to feel shame. It is a rebuke so she can learn to feed herself and live at more peace. He calls her to live more balanced here.

We Martha-types can help ourselves with a few simple changes:

#1 – Rather than blindly serving out of compulsion and guilt, we can only serve when we feel called to serve out of love. By checking our motivations, we cannot build resentments that we are serving for others. We are only serving out of our desire to serve the Lord or show love in His name.

#2 – Building more boundaries in our service. Although theoretically we believe we can do anything and everything, the reality is that we can’t. Physically and emotionally we need to rest and recharge. We can prepare for this by saying “no” to volunteer opportunities or even saying “no” to our own expectations.

When I first purchased my house, I cleaned the floor whenever I had guests over. But over time, I realized my energy was wasted on the floor. When the guests finally arrived I had less energy to love on them in person. I have stopped worrying about the inconsequential dirt on my floor in favor of more actively loving my guests – and I believe Jesus would agree, that is the better choice.

#3 – Martha-types may feel the need to fix situations for others in the name of service and caretaking. This can be helpful once, but eventually we must let others suffer the consequences of their actions. By helping others avoid those consequences, Martha-types are robbing others of valuable life lessons.

Martha-types can feel this is a harsh and loveless act. I assure you, it does no one any good to take the brunt of the consequence upon yourself. If Martha insists on picking up Mary’s slack, Mary will never learn the importance of obedience and service for herself.

Have you thought about what Jesus might be teaching Mary in this situation? He says that Mary’s choice to love on the savior is the better in that moment. What about the moments before?

What happens when they walk in to dinner and Mary’s responsibilities aren’t completed? When Jesus’ favorite dinner rolls are not to be found, will Mary not be embarrassed by her inability to attend to her responsibility for the savior? (I know, it seems silly, but I happen to like dinner rolls!)

Mary could learn that in the day leading up to the savior’s visit, she had been disobedient in her service the whole day leading up to her decision to sit at the feet of the savior.

If we Martha-types take responsibility for our own actions and the actions of others, we take on more than we need. That burden will hurt us as much as it hurts those we care for. Too much of a god thing, is still too much.

Ginny Priz Ginny Priz is a Christian coach, writer and speaker. Ginny has overcome her own drama with a prosthetic arm, alcohol, panic disorder, and codependency. She has a passion for guiding others toward the same peace and freedom she has come to experience. Ditching drama is possible for anyone “armed” with God and the Serenity Prayer! It’s never too late to start your own Serenity Journey.

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