Are You Caught in An Over-Helping Trap?
“It’s easy to get confused by the Messiah Trap, a two-sided lie that, on the surface, appears to be noble, godly, and gracious. After all, being a caring and helpful person is something we value,” writes Carmen Renee Berry, author of When Helping You is Hurting Me.
Berry suggests that we believe one of two lies when we get caught in this trap.
1. Messiah Trap Lie Number One: If I don’t do it, it won’t get done. Messiah Trap people are doers, helpers and genuinely nice people. We keep homes and offices running smoothly. But we can become weary and overwhelmed when we believe another person’s happiness, spirituality, health and/or success is our God-given task. Berry says, “The Messiah Trap is an odd combination of feeling grandiose yet worthless, of being needed and yet abandoned, of playing God while groveling.”
Maybe this applies to you. Maybe it doesn’t. But before you write it off, consider this:
2. Messiah Trap Lie Number Two: Everyone else’s needs should take priority over mine. Because we don’t want to be or appear selfish, we often neglect our own spiritual, emotional, medical or social needs. People depend on us for answers and unending support, which makes us feel important and worthwhile. However, when inevitable humanness breaks through our facade, we may find no one to help us. We can then feel isolated, lonely or disillusioned.
It’s a catch-22, because we dislike the imperfect sensation associated with insignificance or disappointment almost as much as we dislike losing control and not making everything just right. These less-than-perfect emotions and experiences feel so miserable that we deduce we must try harder to avoid feeling this way. Or we withdraw, pretending we never experienced the uncomfortable feelings in the first place.
Either way, it is a genuine relief once we realize that God doesn’t expect us to have all the answers in order to be a valuable and compassionate friend, spouse, parent, colleague or Christian. We can break free from the MESSIAH TRAP or the OVER-HELPING TRAP. It's okay with God if we relax and let Him take-over what isn't our job to control anyway.
“Relax, everything’s going to be all right; rest, everything’s coming together; open your hearts, love is on the way!” (Jude 1:1, THE MESSAGE).
Mom, your life has changed! (You're probably saying under your breath, NO KIDDING!) You have a lot to manage. Your situation is not exactly like your best friend’s circumstances. You have unique needs and so does your family. You don't have to do your mothering like anyone else -- even those you admire greatly.
You can STOP the Mom-Comparison-Game and set grace-filled goals that match YOU and your family. It's okay with God to slow it down and do what fits you.
“Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. . . . Don’t compare yourself with others. "Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life” (Galatians 6:4–5 MSG).
You’re the Mom; God’s Your Helper. The following suggestions are designed to assist you in discovering your unique motherhood needs:
Which of these suggestions will YOU try this week?
Adapted from an excerpt in Nourishment for New Moms by Joan C. Webb.
GIVE YOURSELF OR ANOTHER MOTHER THIS SPECIAL GIFT FOR MOTHER'S DAY!
Find the answers and encouragement you need to tackle this life-altering transition in the sage advice, practical strategies, and biblically based pointers in my book Nourishment for New Moms. It's sure to help you survive the challenges of motherhood--with grace, poise and humor intact.
You've probably noticed that I've not blogged much in the last few weeks. Well, actually it's been since I started my school classes in late January. While attempting to juggle my new much-loved school classes, life coaching, speaking, and my regular life, I remembered that when I was a child, I memorized the verse: "Redeeming the time, because the days are evil" (Ephesians 5:16.)
I wanted to heed the message, making the best possible use of my God-given time. I thought "redeeming time" meant I must make each moment productive. Over the years, it came to mean filling each minute of every day with activity and accomplishment. Rushing and busyness characterized my life.
Occasionally I paused enough to realize I was not in control of my time. Time was controlling me. I then resolved to step back and adjust, only to be sucked up into the excessive doing once again.
If I made perfect use of my time, I thought, I could accomplish much and God would be pleased with me. It was not only a lie, but an impossibility. Speeding through life is not a productive way to redeem the time. A better way to redeem life's opportunities is to slow down, relax, and enjoy myself, others and God.
Some days I practice this philosophy, some days I don't. I'll never do it perfectly. But God knows my desire to effectively redeem my time. AND He's helped me say "no" this past week to several requests that don't fit into my life right now (so I can continue to say "yes" to what I believe He's given me at this stage of my life.) I'm grateful.
Do you ever feel like "rushing and busyness characterize your life? What do you want to do about it?
While preparing for this gift-giving season, I asked myself (and God) two questions (at different times.)
1. What is Christmas to me?
2. What would it mean to enjoy a "grace-filled" holiday?
QUESTION #1: In my journal I wrote the following:
To me Christmas is:
"Sooooo, every day is Christmas to me," I concluded. And then it dawned on me that this reality (that every day is Christmas for me) has caused me to "lighten up" my unrealistic expectations for celebrating Christmas. It's been more an internal shift than an outward one. I've released some of the intense "shoulds and have tos and musts" that society, the media, the church, my inner bully, and others--who appear to have it all together--tell me (or at least hint) that I NEED to do.
In my heart, I now know that I don't have to cram all my giving, caring, doing, gratitude, merriment, music, celebrations, goodwill, and spirituality into the 4-5 concentrated weeks of Christmas holidaying.
QUESTION #2: And then I read about the original meaning of the word "grace" used in the Bible to tell us about the Christ of Christ-mas. This "grace" is the direct opposite of "works", in fact the two are mutually exclusive. All my "trying too hard to make it all just right" at Christmas (or any other time) is the antithesis of grace. When I truly accept God's grace/favor in Christ, I'm able to be grace-ful with myself and others. (John 1:14-17)*
Practical Grace Example! I shared this with some women at the beginning of December. A mom with 4 little kids got so excited that she began thinking of ways to "grace" herself and her family this season. One practical thing she did was to relax her expectations for how her artificial tree would be decorated. When she put it together, she didn't have time to "fluff" up the branches, so she let it go--and allowed the kids to decorate, anyway! All very smile-able.
How will you "grace" yourself and your loved ones this Christmas week?
BOOK WINNERS: Thank you to all of you for commenting on my last blog and entering the book give-away for It's a Wonderful (Imperfect) Life. The three winners were Robyn Bloomquist, Patricia Groff, and Tessie M. Congratulations!. Hope you enjoy reading the devotionals. Love your comments, Everyone. Keep them coming please! :-)
*The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. ...From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." John 1:14-17
[Joan is taking some time-off and has asked her friend and fellow-author
Lucille Zimmerman to share an excerpt from her helpful new book about self-care.
Comment below to put your name in the hat to win an autographed copy of RENEWED. Drawing on 11/24/13.]
Harvard research has found these virtues strongly and consistently linked to happiness: gratitude, hope, vitality, curiosity, and love. That kindness, or gift, need not be tangible. It could be a simple gesture or intent that is represented rather than the actual item or benefit given. Maybe you offer to drive a friend home from the car mechanic’s shop, but instead she chooses the time to sit there and read. The unused offer still carries meaning to both involved. One study found three distinct parts involved in gratitude:
• A warm sense of appreciation for something or somebody
• A sense of goodwill toward that thing or person
• A resulting disposition to act positively
Gratitude is the key to happiness, and happiness seems to make good things happen. The benefits of happiness may include higher income, superior work outcomes, larger social rewards like longer marriages and more friends, more activity, energy, better physical health, and longer life. Happy people are more creative, helpful, charitable, self-confident, have better self-control, show greater self-regulatory and coping abilities. Happiness can add as many as nine years to your life.
In one study led by Dr. Robert Emmons and Mike McCullough subjects were divided into three groups: The first group described five things they were thankful for. The second group wrote about five daily hassles, and the third group wrote about things that had affected them, but they were not told whether to focus on the positive or on the negative. After ten weeks, those who wrote about gratitude were happier and more optimistic. Surprisingly, they also exercised more and had fewer visits to the doctor than those who wrote about hassles.
Another study found that managers who remember to say “thank you” to their employees may actually motivate them to work harder. Marriage researcher John Gottman’s twenty years of research shows that if a couple is unable to maintain a high level (5:1 or greater) ratio of positive encounters (smiles, compliments, laughter, appreciation) to negative encounters (frown, put-down, complaint), the marriage will end. In fact, he can observe a couple for three minutes and determine with 90 percent accuracy whose marriage will flourish and whose will fail.
Can you recall the last time you told someone how much he or she meant to you, how precious your time with him or her was, or how much his or her support enabled you to endure a difficult circumstance? Have you ever tracked down an old acquaintance to thank them for making a difference in your life? If so, do you remember how sharing that message made you and the object of your gratitude feel?
Dr. Martin Seligman asked 411 people to write a letter of gratitude to someone alive or dead, someone who had not been properly thanked for his or her kindness. The happiness benefits and decrease in depression scores, to the letter writer, were greater than any other exercise in Seligman’s happiness study, and the benefits lasted for six months!
[A NOTE FROM JOAN'S ASSISTANT: I truly appreciate the research Miss Lucille has done to help bring renewal to her readers. Joan tells me that this book is full of practical tips on how to be RENEWED! She says it's definitely worth reading. Now, I'm excited to read it and if you are too good news, you have a chance to WIN it! Just COMMENT below on this blog and I will put your name in the hat. I will select a winner from those who comment by 11/24/13. I look forward to seeing who is going to be one step closer to being RENEWED!
Lucille Zimmerman is a Licensed Professional Counselor with a private practice in Littleton, CO and an affiliate faculty professor at Colorado Christian University.
She is the author of Renewed: Finding Your Inner Happy in an Overwhelmed World. Through practical ideas and relate-able anecdotes, readers can better understand their strengths and their passions—and address some of the underlying struggles or hurts that make them want to keep busy or minister to others to the detriment of themselves. Renewed can help nurture those areas of women’s lives to use them better for work, family, and service. It gives readers permission to examine where they spend their energy and time, and learn to set limits and listen to “that inner voice." Are you ready to be RENEWED?
Maybe you’re tired of your inner “shoulda-woulda-coulda” voice, but you’d never call yourself a perfectionist because you tend to procrastinate. Guess what? Perfectionism (trying too hard to make it just right) and procrastination (deciding to do something and then not doing it) are like first cousins who pretend they aren’t related.
As a procrastinating perfectionist, you may not finish a job application, take that vacation, or organize your closet. You may avoid creating new friendships, singing in the choir, or calling a counselor, because you’re afraid of making a mistake, being laughed at, failing others—or yourself. Delaying decisions becomes a habit. Although it may seem like a laid-back approach to life, it’s often painful and limiting.
You can change your procrastinating tendencies. Just starting is a step out of the procrastination trap.
1. Instead of expecting to be the best (employee, parent, musician, you fill in the blank ________) in comparison to everyone else, commit to become the best version of yourself.
2. Limit all-or-nothing thinking. Choose your favorite color (deep red, ocean blue, sunshine yellow?) and the next time you feel stuck and start to procrastinate, brainstorm your options in that color instead of mere black and white. You do have choices.
3. When you’re tempted to procrastinate and postpone another task because it seems too hard or time-consuming, set the timer for 20 minutes. When the alarm sounds you can walk away or re-set for another 20.
4. Find a caring accountability partner who’ll listen to your frustrations without judging or trying to fix you and your procrastinating ways and then who will celebrate with you when you succeed.
5. Stand up to the shoulda-woulda-coulda tyrant in your head. Tell him to sit down and hush because you can make progress without him!
Just as you develop physical muscle by consistently exercising your body, you can develop mental/emotional muscle by consistently practicing these and other anti-procrastination exercises. Freedom, here you come.
You really love this, don’t you? You’re so animated when you’re busy working. Although my client meant this as a compliment, I gagged when I heard her words. To me, they represented a lifestyle I’d tried to ditch. Anything that reminded me of my excessive behavior felt like a punch in the gut. I get a high when rushing, working and finding solutions.
I am an adrenaline junkie. What do I mean?
What helps you become friends with tranquility again?
“I know I’m late. But I don’t feel like I’m being productive or that I’ve achieved my goals unless I’m rushing and at least a half-hour late for each appointment,” said my client as he burst through the door and sprinted past me toward our conference room.
My internal reaction was: Well, Vic, you must feel a great sense of accomplishment today! He had arrived one and a half hours past our scheduled appointment time. Although I didn’t share his philosophy, something in his behavior rang a bell with me. Perhaps I was in awareness-mode, because several weeks later I admitted my own workaholic lifestyle. I was burned-out and wanted to change.
Slowly I began to understand that the narrower definition of a workaholic is someone who is addicted to action. An action addict (like Vic and me) is driven to do too much, expect too much, rush too much and prove too much. Some refer to it as the “hurry sickness.” It can happen to either gender, yet Dr. Brent W. Bost, an obstetrician-gynecologist in Beaumont, Texas estimates that there are 30 million women in America who are so over-scheduled and over-stressed that it negatively affects their physical health, sex life, jobs, and relationships.
The next time someone gives you the ultimate compliment for an action-addict: “You’re so busy. How do you do it all?” consider letting that be a signal to STOP. The antidote to action-addiction is to cease doing for a while. Be quiet. Rest. It will feel wrong. Your body, mind and emotions tell you that you must keep going.
This advice to cease doing for a while reminds me of Psalm 46:10 in The Message: “[Stop!] Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God, above politics, above everything.”
Experts insist that this is a vital step, just as it is important for the alcoholic-addicted person to stop drinking. Your body needs to detox from the chemicals aroused by your constant action. It will be quite difficult--and so worth it. For more information about action-addiction watch for next week's blog “Are You an Adrenaline Junkie?”
What would it take for you to STOP for a while?
During a business dinner, an associate asked me about the book I was writing (The Relief of Imperfection.) When I mentioned the topic of perfectionistic thinking, workaholic behavior and burnout, he nodded and said, "Well, those things are not worth dying for!"
Soon after this I read an article about a trend called "downshifting." Downshifters are men and women who choose to leave all-consuming jobs for a little slower pace so they can experience more enjoyment in their lives. I don't know about you, but I admit this sounds really good.
Happy Labor Day weekend 2013! Perhaps you're really grateful that you get an extra day off. Or maybe you're one of the many who work through the holiday weekend. Before I write/say anything else, I want to acknowledge that I'm grateful for the opportunity and ability to work. You probably are, also (whether its work for ministry, volunteer service, an income-producing job, home schooling or taking care of your babies.)
More and more I talk with people in my coaching, mentoring, and every day life who are realizing that striving and working all the time (to be the best parent, to constantly reach for full potential for yourself and your family, to get more clients and make more money, to help others with very little time to refuel) is not what God had in mind when we made us with the capability to work. There is more to life.
LIFE is worth living for. So this weekend, how about STOPPING the work for a little while to focus on one of the life's enjoyments listed above. What do you choose? Whatever it is, have fun!
You want to pray with me? God, teach me the meaning of life with its balance of labor, rest, and enjoyment. Slow me down to listen. I know "It’s useless to rise early and go to bed late, and work my worried fingers to the bone. I know You enjoy giving rest [and LIFE] to those You love. (Prayer based on Psalm 127:1-2 in The Message)
Joan C. Webb
Writing, teaching, coaching to empower and set free.