24/7 On-Call (Compassionate Boundaries Part 6)

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness  Nancy Virden (c)2013

God has never allowed me to be God, even though I’ve applied for the position many times. Seems he does not believe I can handle the job.

I405n those stretches of time when I have felt in-control of my life and emotions, inevitably evidence proved otherwise. We never are in control. Never. We have the ability, and the responsibility, to choose how to focus our thoughts, speech, and reactions. Everything else is dependent on outside forces.  

Why is it then, we try so hard to change other people and be God in their lives?

“Oh, I don’t want to be God, no, no, no,” we protest. If that is true, why are so many of us always on-call? Why do we become over-involved?

Possible reasons:

(1) PersonalizingWhen Sally Sue next door is going through two deaths in her family, and has lost her job, we care. Her needs bring her to our doorstep repeatedly and we try to meet them. She grows increasingly depressed, and we tell her, “You can call me anytime.”


At some level we believe we have to  be the caretakers; if we are not there for her, who will be? Her problems become our problems, and before too long false guilt has blurred the line between our existence and hers.

It is easier to say no in the first place than to back-off later. In either case, it helps to separate ourselves from her issues. “This is Sally Sue’s problem, not mine.” “It is her life, not mine.” Being honest with her and admitting we have become overwhelmed and have to start putting up boundaries, will allow her a chance to be less dependent. She can learn to reach out for other loving support, and maybe will discover her true God is not us.

(2) Sensitivity. Soft-heartedness may be noble, however it can lead to over involvement if we believe we have to obey our heart’s every whim. Not every need is our issue. Each of us is but one person. To be effective at caring for others we have to know our limits and respect them. Can we solve everything that causes the world great pain? Of course not.

(3) Fear of rejection. Surrounded by friends, Billy is lonely. It seems that fitting in will forever escape him. How could that be? he asks silently each day. I’m a nice guy.

For whatever reason, Billy has trouble asking for his needs to be met. Last week prior to a fishing trip, he accidentally dropped all of his bait into the water. No one offered to share. At first he wondered if anyone would, then settled back into his usual role of helping everyone else.

Someone left a rod in the truck; Billy went to get it. Another forgot to switch shoes and wore his good ones; Billy traded him and stayed away from the mud. His resentment grew. He understood that by sitting in the boat without bait he would be the odd man out. Again.

This kind of people-pleasing is about trying to gain something – friendship, recognition, acceptance, or even avoiding punishment. While our human motives are often not pure, this is over-involvement that works its way into bitterness.


NOTE: I am not a trained or licensed mental health professional. I am not a doctor. I speak only from my experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.

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