Below is a blog from one of my favorite sites. It is written by Pastor Steve Wiens on a blog site entitled "The Actual Pastor". As we have been working through the book of James on Sunday morning, I have been thinking about the things I am responsible for, the things for which I bear no responsibility, and how to tell the difference between the two. This writing has carried me along in this process. I hope it is helpful to you as well.
Stop Taking What You Didn’t Ask For
May 15, 2015 —
Lately I’ve been seeing a counselor, mostly because I am starting to see some deep cracks in my life, and I am wondering if they can be healed. The counselor I see is hilarious and crusty, wise and deep and trustworthy. Even though I feel the same mixture of not wanting to go/feeling like I have nothing to say before every single session, we always end up filling the time. He is really helping me.
After a deeply painful loss in a relationship that was very important to me a few years ago, I said this to my crusty but wise counselor: “My deepest fear is that I was the one that screwed everything up.” I may or may not have used a more colorful word, but you’ll never know, because it was my counseling session, and it’s a secret.
He laughed out loud.
Then he looked at me and said, “Of course you screwed it all up. I’m sure you made some horrible mistakes. Okay. Now what are we going to do together?”
That single sentence – Of course you screwed it all up – was one of the most freeing things anybody has ever said to me.
Recently we were talking about my propensity to take everybody else’s issues and make them all about me. I’m not sure why I do this. It’s like I have a backpack that’s wide open in every conversation that I have, and I invite people to put their stuff in it, and then I promise to walk around with all their stuff in my backpack. I’m pretty great at intuiting what everybody else is feeling and what everybody else might need, but I’m horrible at figuring out how I’m doing or what I need.
This is not a great way to live. It’s exhausting. Plus, I’m a pastor, so I’m in lots of environments where there is an expectation that I will come to meetings with my backpack, and people will feel better once they’ve deposited their caca (is that still a word?) in it. The problem is that it gets heavy, and it really smells.
So my counselor got crafty with me. He moved over next to me, grabbed a handful of pencils, and started telling a story. Every once in a while, he would just randomly give me a pencil. After the first one, I didn’t think much about it, I just took it and held it in my hand. When he handed me the second pencil without explaining what he was doing, I started to feel a little silly. They weren’t even cool pencils. They were the dumb, plastic ones where you have to click the eraser and the tiny lead pops out, then immediately breaks again with the slightest pressure.
When he handed me the third pencil, I didn’t take it.
Then he smiled.
He said that most people just keep taking the pencils, until he asks them, “Why are you taking those pencils? Do you want them? Did you ask for them? If you didn’t ask for them, why are you taking them?”
I told him I was way smarter than that. I’m not going to keep taking your stupid pencils, I said with a smirk. Then he pointed at my backpack, bulging with other people’s stuff, and politely asked me what was in there.
I told him to stop being so rude and that we should play more games with pencils.
There are some things that really are yours to own, apologize for, talk about, and move towards healing. These are the things that are in your backpack because you put them in there. Maybe it’s time to start dealing with those things.
It’s not the other person’s fault if you keep letting them give you pencils or fill your backpack.
You can choose.