Integrating Compassion with the Wisdom of God’s Word


The purpose of Aunt Dara’s Christian Advice Column is to glorify God by addressing human needs with compassion and the wisdom of God’s word.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Must a Christian Help Everyone Who Asks for Assistance?

Dear Aunt Dara, 

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


Dear Annie said...

Yes. Set the boundaries. No wonder you feel stressed. Taking on too much. Learn to tell people no and then don’t look back. Probably it starts with your parents. It’s the hardest to say no to them. Ask for God’s help and grace and deliver the message.

Unknown said...

Look, you can't let people do that. Although it might seem like the Christian thing to do, don't Let it take over your life and make you become a pushover. Pray
and ask god to help you with these troubles because he's the only one that can help. And remember, God doesn't help those who don't try to help themselves, if you advice these people tot try and get things done by themselves maybe beverything will be less stressful. This isn't the way to live, you need to enjoy life with your family. Take this into consideration. God bless

Maryl said...

I think this women needs concrete examples to move forward. Starting with the word No. Start with friends. No I am not able to watch your child in the mornings. It is not working for my family any more. Pls find daycare by Feb.first.Be fully prepared when she tells you she was not able to find care on Jan 31st. Your response will Be "I guess you will be taking vacation time until you do. I know it will work out for you." Do not answer the door on Feb. First when she rings the door bell.same as afternoon Mom. Your continued response..."this is not working for my family anymore" repeat as often as possible. So not get sucked in the back and forth conversation. Keep it simple. Your mother same as above on Feb First I am unable to provide transportation etc.. It is not working for my family anymore!. No explanation, same for father-in-law. Last check, I appreciate your understanding is another good phrase to continually use. Stay out of the complaints and the manipulation of trying to get there way. Good luck

Aunt Dara said...

Maryl, thanks for your feedback. What you have just described is what I call the "broken record" method, which is just repeating the same thing over and over. It really is best to just say no and not give excuses or reasons for your refusal. Telling them that it just isn't working out is an excellent response. The person will ask why isn't it working out, so just repeat, "It just isn't working out." A person who is not used to setting limits with others will feel very uncomfortable using this method at first. They will think that they are being "mean." The other person may try to take advantage of those feelings of guilt, but it's important to not give in. If a person consistently refuses to let others take advantage of them, other people will develop a greater respect for them.

Anonymous said...

Once you have set boundaries with these people then take a breather from them, give them some time to think about what you need. If they come back at you in anger, then you have a valid reason to avoid them. Tough love always works....be strong and pray heavily for strength..

Unknown said...

Maryl has great advice! And, as a Christian, PRAY. Pray for the strength to do just that and Aunt Dara's follow up. DO NOT SAY MUCH. Just that sentence over and over. People who abuse look for an "in". And if you blah blah, believe you me, they will find that "in" and make you feel guilty.

Look at it this way, you ARE destroying your family. How does that feel? That is what you are doing by "helping" everyone else.

Do you really want to do that, or do you want to protect that with all you have?

It is hard at first, practice in front of mirror. Or video.

I have had YEARS of practice. So it is easy for me to do. Best of luck! I am praying for you right now!!!