At the suggestion of my counselor, I read the first chapter of the book Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. Before reading it, I wasn’t sure what exactly I would find. But that first chapter… I felt like I was reading my own life.
When people come to me and ask me to do something for them, I have trouble saying no – even if I am already feeling overwhelmed by everything I have on my plate. This happens at church, in my Irish dance group, with my friends, with my family, and at work. “Maria, would you change out the milks at the North beverage station?” gets a positive response even though I know that my back can’t handle the strain. “Maria, would you lead the technique practices every week?” receives an affirmative even though I’m already exhausted and behind in my school work. Everywhere I turn, “Maria, would you -” or “Maria, I need you to – ” and this, my dear readers, is what I realized was happening in my life as I read this first chapter of Boundaries.
In the past, I have had trouble recognizing that putting others before yourself does not mean sabotaging your ability to help anyone. I can’t put other before myself if there’s no self left to sacrifice for others. According to some very wise people, this problem of mine is not the result of Catholic guilt – rather, it is the result of poor self-love.
Love your neighbor as yourself. If I don’t love myself, how can I possibly love others the way Christ commands me to in the Gospel?
The truth is, sometimes we have to say no. Even Christ declined to travel to certain areas, to heal certain afflictions; even He knew what God had in mind for Him, and He stuck to it. And when he sent out His disciples two by two, He instructed them on how to handle people who did not hear them, who were not open to or good for them: “And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words: going forth out of that house or city shake off the dust from your feet” (Matthew 10:14).
Sometimes, we have to shake the dust from our feet. Sometimes we can’t help someone the way they want us to; sometimes we can’t do that task; sometimes we can’t volunteer ourselves. In order to help others, we have to be in a condition to help them. If we stretch ourselves so thin that we can barely stand, how are we supposed to carry our crosses?
Lord, help me to say yes to You – and no to everything that prevents me from doing so.