This school year has been very trying for my husband and myself. We've been helping friends and family with many favors lately, but now I feel as though I'm a wet rag being squeezed dry. My mother's vehicle broke down some months ago so every weekend or day off, I have to take her to run errands, pay her bills, buy groceries, etc. At first I felt happy to help, but now it has become a stressor for me because I have to squeeze in all her errands plus my own. We have three children and my life was already busy enough with them as it was. My mom's solution is, "Why do you take them to so many birthday parties?” and, "Why do you have them in sports?" In other words, why do anything for anyone else in this world, as long as I'm helping her? She thinks I'm stressing myself out by having them participate in organizations and such. I'm a little bitter toward her because I know my mom would not help me or anyone else that needs help. She never has. She's very selfish. I had to work the moment I turned 16 and have had to support myself since. I'm only thankful that my forced-upon independence taught me responsibility.
Additionally, ever since my father-in-law’s girlfriend passed away, we've been having to help him financially. We were happy to help him at first, but now it has become an annoyance because any extra money that we once had is gone. My father-in-law doesn't seem to care that we have our own bills, our kids' expenses, etc. We can't take a vacation or buy groceries without him thinking we're loaded, when in actuality we live paycheck to paycheck. What annoys my husband the most is that his father has never been a giving, caring, or compassionate person with him. When my husband was young and his parents divorced, he chose to live with his dad. It turned out that his dad sent him away to live with various friends and relatives, but his dad still kept all the child support checks that came in from his mom. When the time came for back to school shopping and my husband needed new clothes, shoes, and books, his dad refused to buy him anything because he could "never afford it.” So at a young age, my husband had to start finding ways to make his own money to support himself. We met and married young but have been blessed that we have always been able to support ourselves, without our parents' help but with God's help. Throughout our 20 years of marriage, we have always put all our faith in Him and recognize that without Him, we wouldn't be where we are today. We give Him all the glory and praise.
In addition to helping our parents out, I have a couple of friends who have been needing our help this year. Again, we are happy to help people when we are able to do so. However, lately I feel as if we are being taken advantage of. One friend leaves her kids with me at 6:30am each morning so I can take them to school with my own kids. She has to rush to work from there. My other friend relies on me to pick up her daughter from school at the end of the day, because she gets out of her job too late. She either picks her up from my house really late in the evenings or, if she picks her up in a timely manner, she stays at my house chit-chatting until close to 10pm! I don't get to make dinner, do chores, spend time with husband or kids, etc.
I feel I'm at my wits end with all these people. I have already had some minor meltdowns at home and start yelling over the silliest things just because I'm so frustrated, tired, and stressed out. As a Christian, I feel we should be more like Jesus and help others with a happy heart. My dilemma is that I used to have a happy heart when helping others, but lately I feel so angry and used. I just want us to run far, far away and never come back! I don't have the heart to be honest with any of them to tell them how I feel because I'm the type of person that will do anything to spare hard feelings. I hate confrontations. I've heard the saying, "Be a blessing and you'll be blessed.” However, I just don't feel like I deserve God's blessings because all I've come to do lately is just complain about these people. Can you please give me some advice as to how I should be feeling toward everyone? I feel wrong for having ill feelings toward these individuals but I can't help it.
At Wits End
Dear Wits End,
Let me summarize: Your mother is demanding of your time and dependent on you for transportation. Your father-in-law is dependent on your money to meet his living expenses. Your friends depend on you to provide free babysitting and they interfere with your ability to meet the needs of your own family. You don’t have any time for yourself, your husband, or your children. You feel as if you are being squeezed dry and would like to run far, far away. You are at your wits end and feel stressed, tired, frustrated, and angry, and so you end up yelling over minor things. Conclusion: You feel as if you are being used because you are being used, and those negative feelings are the natural result of stress from being taken advantage of.
While it is true that Christians are to follow Jesus’ example and do good to others (Acts 10:38, Galatians 6:10), it appears that you have taken this to the extreme and are wearing yourself out in trying to help others. Jesus frequently took breaks from teaching the multitudes and healing the sick so that He could meet His own needs (Luke 5:15-16). The Bible instructs us to be temperate in all things (1 Corinthians 9:25, 1 Timothy 3:11), which means to show moderation, to have self-restraint, and to do things within a reasonable limit. That even includes doing good works within a reasonable limit, and the Bible warns us that we will destroy ourselves if we do not (Ecclesiastes 7:15-16). The Lord never intended for us to allow ourselves to be used or to do so much for others that we totally wear ourselves out and neglect our own family and our own needs.
It appears as if you believe that to be like Jesus you must help everyone, so therefore you must not turn down a request for help. Jesus recognized when people were trying to take advantage of Him and did not give them what they wanted (John 6:22-27). He did not always respond to requests and He set conditions for the people He helped (Matthew 15:21-28). Additionally, God does not always give us what we ask for in prayer and sets conditions for His blessings (John 9:31, James 1:5-8, James 4:3, 2 Corinthians 12:7-9). Therefore, if God can deny requests and set limits and conditions for what He does for people, then we can do the same. You have the right to set appropriate limits and conditions with others, and you have the right to turn down requests. It is okay to tell your friend that she must pick up her child by a certain time. It is okay to tell her that it’s time for her to leave because you need to cook dinner for your family. It’s okay to set limits for your mother and father-in-law.
Are you actually helping these people, or are you fostering dependency? Helping means that you render assistance, and inherent in this definition is the understanding that such aid is temporary until the person no longer needs assistance (2 Corinthians 8:11-14). If the person is not moving toward gaining independence, it ceases to be “receiving help” and becomes a reliance or dependency on the giver. What effort has your mother made to repair her car or to obtain other means of transportation? What effort has your father-in-law made to be able to manage his expenses on his own? What would they do without you? If you were no longer able to provide transportation for your mother or give money to your father-in-law, what would they do? It appears that you are no longer helping your mother and father-in-law. They have become dependent on you and you are supporting them. If you continue to provide transportation and money to them, they will have no motivation to work toward becoming independent. Your first responsibility is to your own family—to your husband, children, and home. You and your husband need to have an honest discussion with each other to come to an understanding of what changes need to be made to set reasonable limits with them to reduce your burden and stress.
God bless,Aunt Dara