“Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.”
–Matthew 7:6, from Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount:
When I was in first grade, I was awarded the lead role in our class play, The Little Red Hen.
If you are not familiar with it, it is about a hen going about the business of making a delicious loaf of bread, but attempting to include her friends, Dog, Cat and Duck in the preparation. As she asks each time she is about to undertake a laborious process in the baking of her bread, we find that her friends could care less about helping her out. From gathering, to milling, to baking, each time she is told by each that they will not help. But when the bread is baked and ready for eating, Dog, Cat and Duck are more than happy to share in the product of the work. As they enthusiastically affirm that they will help Little Red Hen eat the bread, she turns them all down and eats it herself. Over the years, I didn’t think much about my short drama career, but as I have grown older I look at what it is able to teach me.
You see, I was one of those people who was generous to a fault. While it is good to be generous, it is not good to give until you yourself are depleted and can give no care to the things that one must do to exist. While I love a good challenge, my problem was that I would take up other people’s crosses and bear them until I was tired, verbally abrasive, and depressed. Where others had given up, I would think nothing of throwing them over my shoulder to run their last mile. This, while appearing brave, was utter stupidity on my part. Some strange undercurrent within the ocean of who I was, stoked an irrational quest to become a martyr. I allowed this pattern to continue for the majority of my life–and when it almost broke me I realized two things:
- I had encouraged people to view me in this way, and make demands on my time by not understanding the value of saying no, and putting it to good use.
- It was my fault, so I had to undo the damage I had done to myself by saying no, not feeling any guilt about it, allowing anyone else to question my choices, or feeling like I ever had to explain myself.
You see, as a dysfunctional Little Red Hen, I was willing to gather, mill, and bake without requiring a fraction of reciprocation from the people I thought I was helping. This was no longer helping–it was enabling of the highest order and I paid the price for it. My body, soul, mind and peace paid a price for my way of doing things.
You are not required to shoulder anyone’s burdens for them–especially adults. And as we know, it is never wise to remove all of the character building burdens from children either–lest they fall into a state of mental atrophy and entitlement–where common sense is not so common and common courtesy is a chore.
The Lesson I am Learning from all of those years ago is this:
Not everyone is meant to share in your success, if they are not willing to mutually support your dreams as you support theirs. You can also love from afar while people learn the lessons they alone are meant to experience. It is never a good thing to try to take all of the burden from someone’s load, since our greatest triumphs spring forth from some of our biggest catastrophes.
Care and love, but be wise. Do what you can, but never at the expense of your sanity or basic standard of living. Because when choices are made, we must live with the consequences of those choices in order to really learn the lessons that are meant for us to learn–not to step between the energy of those choices and intercept what were never our burdens to bear. And if all is done with a good heart, no explanation is ever needed as to why you no longer gather, mill and bake for all–or choose to partake of your works in solitude.