By Susannah Cragwick
Your faith never called you to be a doormat. This concept is something I am awakening to, and the realization and ownership of this truth is setting my soul free. I have always struggled to say “no,” which has allowed all of my boundaries to be compromised in the name of being a better, more moral, more compassionate Christian. I’ve sacrificed my own mental and emotional health on the altar of sacrificial service to mankind and that was never meant to be.
God put the burden of the world on his shoulders, but that does not mean I need to carry every single burden of everyone around me for the sake of seeming more Christlike. Many times people have asked for my help on an essay, project, resume, etc., and have poured anxiety and stress into me by telling me – or at least implying – that if I don’t help them, they will suffer some kind of consequence: a bad grade, not passing a class, and so forth. It has left me feeling as if choosing to not change all of my plans and drop everything to serve them would not only jeopardize our relationship, but that any resulting problems would then be my fault.
I’ve always had this sort of mother hen mentality – the need, or perhaps want, to protect my family, friends, and even acquaintances, to keep everybody happy, to keep the peace. This is both my strength and my weakness, for I have become a support system for those in need. But I’ve also realized that people can use this part of my personality to their advantage. Often, when people ask me for help, I do not always feel as if they are allowing me to have boundaries, to choose to assist them when my schedule allows. Instead, I feel as if I am expected to drop everything I’m doing in order to cater to them. They make me feel as if I am their last resort and force themselves into the space of becoming my priority. And, even if subconsciously, the guilt that I was never meant to carry activates within my mind.
Surely if Christ sacrificed everything for me, I can do my part to help humanity. However, in the name of helping others to gain Christ through the witness of my actions, I have lost a part of me. I’ve given up quality time with my family and even compromised my physical health, not fully grasping that my love for humanity should also extend to me.
Being a humble servant of Christ has never meant that I have to allow others to walk all over me. So often that classic “turn the other cheek” scripture is quoted as a way to encourage or even force Christlike passivity, but Christ was not passive. He did not on Earth nor does he now operate free of boundaries as a way to show his love for humanity. Yet, I (and others, as I’m guessing I’m not alone) have been subjected to the implication that having boundaries and standing up for myself would somehow lessen others’ chances of seeing God within me.
All of my life, my heart has dwelt between bitterness and deep mourning at the reality that my mother and so many other women who have and are enduring domestic violence have been fed the lie that, if they are just more humble and peaceful, if they turn the other cheek and pray, Christ will change their abuser’s heart and the abuse will stop. Yes, God can change people’s hearts. But he has never called anyone to endure abuse in order to bring others closer to him. An abuser’s toxicity is not and has never been evidence that the one they are abusing is required to stay and love them back to Christ.
Something I’ve heard all my life is that God speaks to us through other people. I believe this to be true. But I have also had to come to the realization that I need to have boundaries from others. A while ago, I disturbed my soul with the reality that none of my goals was my own. Everything revolved around pleasing others, earning accolades, and impressing someone with my ambition and abilities. I wrote with a spirit of fear at offending people, and this – for far too long – has concealed who I really am.
There is so much more to the vibrancy within my soul and the strength of my voice as I have allowed limitations to be stripped away and have begun writing in the full authenticity of my inner core. I am finally becoming who Christ has always been calling me to be.
Set yourself free from the inauthentic spirit of Christ that others have used to suppress you. In the Bible, we see that Christ had boundaries. He took quiet hours to go away by himself and you can do the same. He is with you, loving you as you love others and dwelling fully with you in those moments you need to be alone. He not only supports, but also encourages us to have boundaries. Even in the crucifixion, through his unity with the Trinity, he held full control. You have never been required to sacrifice your heart and soul for the sake of seeming more like him. You can take control and define what your faith means to you.