Some days we feel like a burden.
To those around us.
But most of all –
To our suffering Loved One.
A burden is something troublesome. It is something hard to get rid of. It’s something the one who bears it finds difficult to put down, either due to attachment or principle.
A mother can be burdened with worry because her daughter is going through a hard time or she can be burdened with worry because her daughter is getting drunk every night and putting herself in risky situations. They are very different types of burdens. One is inadvertent, the other irresponsible. I think it’s important to recognize the distinction.
Our Loved One has troubles of their own
When our Loved One does something for us we can begin to feel like a burden to them.
Perhaps it’s because they are our mother or father. They physically provide for us (or used to). They brought us into the world and have expended time and money and energy and love on our upbringing, despite their own struggles. They continue to do so, regardless of our age.
Or maybe they are spouse. Or an Aunty. Or even just a friend. Whatever the relationship, they are giving. They are sacrificing. They are providing, whether it’s a lift to the station or a roof over our heads.
And we feel uncomfortable.
It’s even harder when what they are giving is not physical. If they love us and are able to think, they most likely spend time thinking about us.
They try and join with us in our struggles. They may laugh with us, but they also weep with us. They mull over our decisions, and worry about our futures and feel pain in our disappointments, because of their relationship with us. Such an expenditure of emotional energy!
Sometimes this makes us angry. We want to push them away. Can’t they see they have enough pain of their own already? The last thing they need is to share ours as well.
We want to protect them. We resolve never to share our problems with them again. They have plenty of their own.
Or perhaps our Loved One is incapable of giving to us physically or emotionally. Sometimes that is the case. Yet even so, we’re not free from the guilt of being a burden. Because we can feel like a burden when we make mistakes too. When we love and serve – and lose our temper, and do everything all wrong, and cause them pain. In those times it’s easy to think that we’re just making things worse. We shouldn’t be here. Someone else should be doing this.
We are a burden
Firstly, we need to do something crazy. We need to have the humility and the vulnerability to admit that we are a burden.
And that’s the solid truth.
Like it or not.
All relationships are burdensome. All attachments hurt. Friendship is ecstasy and agony. They are a burden to us and we are a burden to them.
And yet, what is the alternative? Should we leave? Should we seek to fly above all human ties in order to not hurt others and not be hurt ourselves?
Would that make our Loved One truly happy?
Would it make us happy?
We must ask ourselves what we want most. An easy life, free from the effort and strain of attachments, or a messy one of friendships and loves?
Without you, your Loved One’s life would be physically and emotionally ‘easier’. But would it be better?
Burdens can be valuable
Interestingly, the idea of relationships being a burden is not a new one. God never tells us to ‘throw away our burdens’, but rather to ‘bear one another’s burdens.’ He describes entering into a relationship with Him, not as being burden-free, but as having an ‘light burden’ and an ‘easy yoke’.
“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
This side of heaven every relationship is going to be difficult. We are going to have to work at them. We’re often going to inadvertently or purposefully make others’ lives harder. We are going to stress them and disappoint them.
But that’s no reason to give up! We were created for relationships and placed in each one for a reason and a purpose. God is strategic and He works all things for good. There is a blessing tied up with the burden (sometimes it’s just a bit hard to find).
Burdens are not to be frowned at
I suspect that a lot of our guilt regarding being burdensome arises from frustration – not at them but at ourselves. We feel like a nuisance most when we realise that we cannot fix their problems (indeed are adding to them). We feel most guilty when we are thinking of ourselves as their Saviour rather than God (I’m supposed to be helping them, and instead I’m…). We are not as guiltless in our guilt as we like to think.
To be selfless in a relationship is to receive, not only when we cannot give, but when we can. It’s important that we humble ourselves enough to accept our Loved One’s gift of love, even though it may complicate their already complicated lives. This is part of loving. This is part of being human.
And, when we look at the Trinity, we see that it is also part of being divine. God both gives and receives love.
It’s loving to burden them
Where to from here? Do we continue to live and love? Do we throw away guilt? Do we delve deep into relationships?
The answer is a resounding yes.
The truth is, our Loved One is a burden to us. Yet we choose to love them anyway. How dare we not return the favour? How dare we stand up on our high horse and explain that we are allowed to serve them but they are not allowed to serve us? That they are allowed to ask for help, but we are not?
Who do we think we are?
By choosing to be a burden, perhaps we are actually choosing to love. And love is painful, but it is never wrong.
// Do you ever feel like a burden? How do you try and minimise that? Are you right to do so?
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