Sunday, April 5, 2009

35. Do nothing for people that they can do for themselves.

From Debbie in San Francisco:

This is also a canon of "How Not to Be Codependent," and I certainly do not follow this well at all. Thank you, Father, for making sure this particular maxim was assigned to me. Grrrr. I'm learning, a bit at a time, sometimes so slowly it seems.

As I struggle with this maxim, I learn why it is that I am so reluctant to let go of doing other people's work for them. Some of the ugly reasons that I find, as I unravel this are:

- I think I can do a better job than them
- I guess this means I don't really respect their individuality and free choice
- If they don't do it the way I would want it, it might end up as a problem for me.
- I get some sense of superiority by accomplishing it
- They have come to expect or rely on me doing something they can do themselves
- I don't want to disappoint them by refusing
- I don't want to experience their displeasure when I've refused
- I'm dreadfully afraid that if I don't exist to come to the rescue or to be needed by another I'll have no other solid reason to be. Who would I be?

What makes me think that I can take care of my own responsibilities as well as another's? I can barely keep myself going in the right direction. In fact, what has Lent illuminated so clearly about my inability?

Sometimes I think it's hard to draw the line between our own responsibility and another's free choice. But God can give us wisdom in this area.

As I've asked God to show me his truth in this area, I've noticed a few things:

- We all learn by practice. Parents know this. We would never want to deprive our child of the opportunity of falling down as they learn to walk. But why do we so quickly step in when they cry out for help at 11 PM on their school project that's due the next day? Why do we so quickly offer advice on how to choose roommates, friends, or an apartment, even when they haven't asked? All of us need the opportunity to hit obstacles. We can trust God to love that person as much as he loves us, and be there for them in their difficulty, as he has been for us. Do we really think we can do a better job than God?
- I must avail myself of His offer to cast my anxieties and fears upon Him. I can trust Him to love those that I feel inclined to take undue responsibility for.
- I can use the time and energy to listen to God and follow the path that He's putting in front of me. This is my responsibility to Him.

What are some of your thoughts?

1 comment:

Emily said...

Wow, Debbie. What a wonderful illustration of the work that can be accomplished within a willing heart!

I've always loved (and been a little freaked out by) the story of Eustace in "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader." When his greed causes him to be turned into a dragon, he has to be stripped of his sin in a very painful way:

"Then the lion said -- I don't know if it spoke -- 'You will have to let me undress you.' I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat on my back to let him do it. The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I've ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off . . . Then he caught hold of me -- I didn't like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I'd no skin on -- and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone."

I can't explain theosis in a better way.

The Forty Maxims

  • 1. Be always with Christ and trust God in everything.
  • 2. Pray, fast and do acts of mercy.
  • 3. Read the Scriptures regularly.
  • 4. Read good books, a little at a time.
  • 5. Practice silence, inner and outer.
  • 6. Cultivate communion with the saints.
  • 7. Be an ordinary person, one of the human race.
  • 8. Live a day, even a part of a day, at a time.
  • 9. Be honest, first of all with yourself.
  • 10. Be faithful in little things.
  • 11. Do your work, then forget it.
  • 12. Do the most difficult and painful things first.
  • 13. Face reality.
  • 14. Be grateful.
  • 15. Be cheerful.
  • 16. Be simple, hidden, quiet and small.
  • 17. Never bring unnecessary attention to yourself.
  • 18. Listen when people talk to you.
  • 19. Be awake and attentive, fully present where you are.
  • 20. Think and talk about things no more than necessary.
  • 21. Speak simply, clearly, firmly, directly.
  • 22. Flee imagination, fantasy, analysis.
  • 23. Flee carnal things at their first appearance.
  • 24. Don’t complain, grumble, murmur or whine.
  • 25. Don’t seek or expect pity or praise.
  • 26. Don’t compare yourself with anyone.
  • 27. Don’t judge anyone for anything.
  • 28. Don’t try to convince anyone of anything.
  • 29. Don’t defend or justify yourself.
  • 30. Be defined and bound by God, not people.
  • 31. Accept criticism gracefully and test it carefully.
  • 32. Give advice only when asked or when it is your duty.
  • 33. Be strict with yourself.
  • 34. Be merciful with yourself and others.
  • 35. Do nothing for people that they can do for themselves.
  • 36. Have a healthy, wholesome hobby.
  • 37. Have no expectations except to be fiercely tempted to your last breath.
  • 38. Endure the trial of yourself and your faults serenely, under God’s mercy.
  • 39. When you fall, get up immediately and start over.
  • 40. Get help when you need it, without fear or shame.