Saturday, February 10, 2018

Super Saturday: Let's Focus on Unhealthy Helping

This is a tough one to write.

I'm afraid I'll be misunderstood. (It's inevitable because I hardly understand it myself.)

"Normal" people will not understand this problem because they have healthy boundaries and a good sense of self-worth. They can stop reading right now because this week's post will not apply to them.

For the rest of you, I'm hoping this post will help all of us get to more healthy ways of helping others.

I had a long day yesterday.

I went down to our church daycare a little before 6:00 a.m. because we had gotten quite a bit of snow overnight. I wanted to be there to help get the day started and assess the situation with staff and kids.

I waded down there through the unplowed street and then up the unplowed parking lot. Our faithful opener had gotten a ride from her son, so she was already there getting ready for whatever the day held.

School was going to be two hours late, and later they cancelled it completely.

We didn't have many kids scheduled, so I called one staff person not to come and told another not to come when she called to check on the situation. Some kids didn't come at all, but we got a couple of extra ones because of the snow day.

I called another staff member who lived in town and had her come to help our opener. I settled in with the two children we had in the infants room. 

At 2:00 both of my kids had gone home, so I moved over to the Lions room so our opener could go home. After helping with snack time, the other staff person and her son went home, leaving me with six kids for the rest of the day.

It never occurred to me to ask someone else to come in and close. I just figured they deserved a snow day and a nice day at home. I didn't mind staying. (I really didn't!) We played Uno for a while and found other things to play with until all of the kids went home. I cleaned up a few things after they left, but our daughter Erin called while I was still there and she expressed shock that I had worked almost twelve hours that day - for free!

When I hung up from talking to her, I realized how beat I was and I left a few things undone and headed for home. I made supper and watched part of the opening ceremony for the olympics until I started nodding off, so I headed for bed.

Of course, I went back to the daycare today for a little while and finished my cleaning because I'm a responsible person, you know.

(Are you "normal" people still reading? I beg you not to judge me or write me off as some crazy person. I swear I'm in my right mind...I just have some problems with boundaries and "unhealthy helping.")

I had already been thinking about this topic for the last couple of weeks.

I like volunteering at the daycare - most of the time. 

I started doing it because the daycare was a little shaky financially and I could help by volunteering some time in the office and the rooms.

I kept doing it even after they got more stable financially and I pushed aside the offer to start paying me. I wanted to keep doing what I could to make the daycare's finances work well and I didn't want the pressure of being a paid staff person.

As a volunteer, I wasn't locked into a certain number of hours on the schedule each week (even though I averaged about nineteen hours a week in 2017).

It felt good to be such a big help to the daycare. I felt needed and important because I could fill in when they needed me. It was really fun at first to organize things in the office and keep track of records and stuff.

As time went by, it wasn't as much fun. I saw myself not getting certain things done and I felt bad because the records weren't in perfect order and I made mistakes sometimes. In other people's eyes I was doing fine, but in my own I was falling short.

I kept doing the job, but my heart wasn't in it anymore. Sometimes I would feel resentful that I was putting in so many hours, even though I'm the one who scheduled myself or said yes when someone needed a day off.

I started using the daycare as an excuse for not getting other things done at home. (housework, my writing projects, etc.)

I still heard "thank you" from other staff members and the board, but I also heard a couple of people express concern about the number of hours I was working. I wondered how many people thought I was just a wimp for working so much as a volunteer.

Like I said, I hardly understand all of this myself, but this week's post is an attempt to start to unravel it. I want to help and serve from a healthy, truly generous heart (and most days I do!) but I'm realizing that I've gotten to an unhealthy level of giving that needs to change in the weeks ahead.

The other staff are competent, caring, and conscientious. They don't "need" me as much as I sometimes think they do. It's time to back out to a healthier level and make sure I'm caring for myself and other things God has called me to do.

I've listed (after this post) a couple of online articles and a book I think I'm going to read soon as I continue to explore this topic and learn to help in healthy ways.

Helping isn't bad - we just have to make sure it's coming from a healthy place.
"For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (Ephesians 2:10 NIV)

Do you help in healthy or unhealthy ways? How can focusing on God help you to get to a healthier place if you tend to give too much?

"10 Signs That You Are Giving Too Much of Yourself" (from Amanda Itzkoff on

"12 Signs That You're Giving Too Much" (from Shawn Burn, PhD on

A book I plan to read soon: "Unhealthy Helping" by Shawn Burn, PhD

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