Overdoing Things

Lots of people are prone to overdoing things, but those in the so-called caring professions are probably more prone than many. For clergy and religious overdoing things seems to be a given. People have very high expectations of us and in an attempt to meet those expectations, we can sometimes exhaust ourselves and those closest to us. Often we feel we have no choice. We know we should rest, but someone comes along and asks us to do something and we feel obliged to respond. It does not help when a well-wisher says, ‘Vicar, you should rest,’ or ‘Father, take things easy for a bit.’ Experience shows that if the tired vicar or parish priest does take a rest, there are very soon some disgruntled comments being made about selfishness and other undesirable qualities.

I was pondering this mini-problem when I came across an interesting blog post entitled 15 Things You Should Give Up To Be Happy. Although apparently written from a secular/New Age standpoint, it has some reminders about the need for forgiveness, humility and so on with which no Christian would disagree. At the end comes a reminder about freeing ourselves from the expectations others have of us. That was the point where I realised how different the Christian perspective is. We do not seek to be ‘in control’ but to surrender to whatever the Lord is asking of us in any and every situation. Our problem is that when we overdo things, we are doing the wrong thing for the right reason, which is why it is so hard to break ourselves of the habit.

It could be a useful exercise to scrutinize one’s own motivation, particularly if one knows one has a tendency to overdo things. I cheerfully admit to trying to do too much and getting cross with myself whenever I fail (which is often) or feeling a bit crushed when others get cross with me for not doing what they have asked or expect of me. I don’t think there is any ‘solution’ this side of heaven except practising humility and patience. Perhaps it is because they are such quintessentially Benedictine qualities that I am still struggling!

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2 thoughts on “Overdoing Things”

  1. When with goodly intention we give and do for others beyond our capacity , for long time, our health and strength eventually become eroded. We use the term ‘burn out’ for this condition of exhaustion. If ignored serious ill health may take root. Learning to say ‘no’ and to manage expectations are necessary skills, and one must have courage to practice them. It is humbling to refuse a request, and takes patience with oneself in great measure to accept ones limitations. I’ve learned that one must take care of oneself if one hopes to care for others. For anyone who has experienced this, and there are many, I have and my husband is presently, will understand the essential need for self care.

  2. “Our problem is that when we overdo things, we are doing the wrong thing for the right reason.” I wonder is this always true. Or reason might be that we don’t want people to know we have limits as does everyone else, or that we don’t want to admit that fact to ourselves. I’m with Margaret on this one. If I have reached the limits of my energies I believe God wants me to accept this and and to be humble enough to say as much to others. A good yardstick is to recognise when I start to resent what I am expected to or to play the martyr. At that point I need to stop and ask am I busier, more stressed, than God wants me to be. It took me many, many years to accept these facts but in old age, I hope, I am at least starting to.

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