News Flash: There aren’t any news flashes in this post, but there are some things we all tend to do over and over again that get us in trouble. I decided maybe that means we (I) need to keep talking about it.
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There is just something about the life overseas that creates a lot of pressure to do all the things.
Perhaps it is not true across the board, but in general it seems that the life of an expatriate, whether a missionary or a humanitarian or a business owner, can be one of balancing several (sometimes opposing) demands.
In our line of work we might have the best interest of a patient or client or employee at heart while also needing to consider the needs of the donor or visitor who helps us care for our patient or client and helps us to pay our employees. Sometimes protecting both interests feels impossible.
In a short time period we might deal with several very intense or stressful situations that require many extra hours of our time, while also fielding dozens of requests to visit, to tour, to ask questions about the work, to observe the work, or to have the work explained in order to be funded further or in order for the model to be copied.
For many of us, saying yes to all the things is just what we do. We do it because we want to keep the donor happy, we do it because we want to keep the work funded, we do it because we love the people we have come to work with and serve, we do it because we are people pleasers and we want to make everyone happy. We do it because we want to be viewed as kind and giving.
This works for us – until it does not work for us. If you are anything like me, and perhaps you have said yes more times than you should have, there comes a time when you realize that you resent even being asked to do something.
The other day I got an email. It said, “Hi my name is so and so and I live in such a place and I am so touched by the work you do. We are going to start a similar work in our place and I am wondering if you can tell me how you started, what you did, what it costs, how you go about funding it, what the hardest part is, when you knew you wanted to do it, and can I come see it next month?”
Now. Hear me. That person is likely very kind and passionate and is simply asking great questions that will prepare them for the future.
I, however, just finished of hard couple of days and want to sit and stare at a wall (instead of pay attention to my children). When the messaged popped into my box I immediately felt mad. “What in the world?” “How do they think I have time to do that after my 18 hour day? I just got home. I have not seen my kids.” “Ugh. I just did this for someone last week – do I have to do it again?”
This is what we call “THE RESENTMENT”.
Nobody wants to live in The Resentment.
A healthy person knows that it is my choice to answer or not answer depending on what is best for my own mental health.
I would venture to guess that many of us struggle with saying no. I am thinking living in resentment might be an expatriate problem. (When we get “home”for a break, everyone wants us to be at all the things and we start showing up to make them happy, even when what we might really need is a quiet place to take an actual rest from life.) I am wondering if for some of us, it isn’t some twisted view of service and faith that says, “Loving and serving Jesus joyfully includes always saying yes to all the things!”
Saying yes to everything sets us up to fail, to become angry, to become bitter and to live in resentment.
In Brene Brown’s new book, Rising Strong, she says when we feel angry and notice that we are easily annoyed, we need to WANT to learn more about what is causing those feelings. She suggests asking the questions:
-Why am I being so hard on everyone around me today?
-What’s setting me off?
-How did I get to the point that I want to punch this wall?
-I want to dig into why I am so overwhelmed.
-I cannot stop thinking about what that person said or did, why not?
In chapter six Brene asks, “How can we expect people to put value on our work when we don’t value ourselves enough to set and hold uncomfortable boundaries?”
There is a lot to be said for setting and holding boundaries. It can be terribly uncomfortable. It might mean you make fewer people happy, but it will also probably mean you are happier yourself and more able to live a life free of resentment.
On page 119 of Rising Strong
- The trick to staying out of resentment is maintaining better boundaries–blaming others less and holding myself more accountable for asking for what I need and want.
- There is no integrity in blaming and turning to “it’s not fair” and “I deserve.” I need to take responsibility for my own well-being. If I believed I was not being treated fairly or not getting something I deserved, was I actually asking for it, or was I just looking for an excuse to assign blame and feel self-righteous.
Brene calls the solution to this issue- Living BIG: Boundaries, Integrity, and Generosity.
She asks, “What boundaries do I need to put in place so I can work from a place of integrity and extend the most generous interpretations of the intentions, words, and actions of others?”
“Integrity is choosing courage over comfort; choosing what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy; and choosing to practice our values rather than simply professing them.”
For all of us, there is a balance to be found. Living in integrity means doing what we can to say yes when we can say yes – and realizing that sometimes we really need to say no.
Saying “no” and having boundaries improves our family life. It allows for rest, for reflection, for fun. Saying ‘no’ when we need to – keeps us from The Resentment.
Is this something you struggle with?
Do you find yourself blaming others for asking too much instead of taking responsibility for saying “yes” too often?