In Father of The Bride (1991), George Banks (played by Steve Martin) is talking with his daughter’s ex-fiancé following a dramatic break-up scene. George is trying to smooth things over when he says, “Annie’s a very passionate person. And passionate people tend to overreact at times.” He is using the word “passionate” as a nice way of saying she is a little crazy at times. After seeing this movie, my husband started using the term to describe me. He uses the word a lot.
While my passion is selective, it is impossible for me to only partially commit. This applies to a project I am working on, but not to cleaning my house; which at times can be problematic.
“You need help with summer camp, sure I can help and of course I will plan the activities for my station and buy goat to roast over the open fire. “
“Why yes, my mouth is all bruised and swollen. I was blowing out 2 dozen eggs for my 1st graders to hand paint as a lesson on Russia. “
“We’re taking a trip to New Orleans (from New Jersey), so I planned a few other stops not too far out of the way like, say, Austin, Texas.”
“You know, these lesson plans had a great idea for making food from ancient Egypt, I bet I could do that with every place and time we study. I just need a map and I can check off the countries as I cook.”
My husband has just gotten used to these crazy ideas, God bless his soul. Our house is filled with crazy things like a miniature steam engine, wood burning tools, painted backdrops of volcanoes and jungles, and quill pens all because, “I might need them for a lesson some day.” (and I DO!) Our kids eat whatever is put on the table and have simply requested I not tell them where it’s from. Our road trips are EPIC!
The problem comes when I get passionate about something, but I can’t do anything about it. I become conflicted. I mull it over in my mind ad infinitum. That was the case for me with issues of justice in the world that I was seeing: slavery, poverty, violence, inner-city education, oppression of women, and the list goes on and on. Before I could even wrap my head around one problem I would learn about another problem. These are all vast issues with many facets, often deeply entrenched in culture and religion. Sometimes the depravity of what I was seeing would haunt my thoughts day and night.
I felt helpless, conflicted, and at times almost paralyzed or apathetic, because how could things change?
How does one live passionately with tasks so overwhelming? How does a passionate person not burnout when confronting immeasurable injustice and oppression around the world? How?
I’ve found myself at times caught in a downward spiral of anguish over some injustice. I’d get stuck in learning about some horror and I couldn’t let go. I needed boundaries.
Boundaries I have found helpful:
- Everything in life must be centered on Christ. This is both a reminder to myself and the crux of my being. I can only fight injustice when I understand the Creator of justice, when my mind is renewed by Him DAILY, and when I am strengthened by the Holy Spirit who resides within me. I forget this truth often and must be reminded of it regularly.
- I don’t watch/read the news. Not that I don’t keep up with world events and politics, but I limit my consumption. I don’t need to read every news report on every child molester. Nor do I need to hear every survivor’s tragic tale to be informed. I don’t need to see everything for myself. You just can’t un-see something. Sometimes less really is more.
- “Look for the helpers,” just like Mr. Rogers said. I read of rescuers, of survivors, and of hope as much as possible so I can envision the change I am working towards.
- I surround myself with supportive, faithful Christians who lift me in prayer, teach me the Word, and hold me accountable. A safety net is a must.
If you’re going to join in the fight for justice you need to set up some boundaries. You aren’t any good to the fight if you are worn down and feel defeated. Your boundaries might be different from mine. You might need to steer clear of some particular injustice. Don’t feel bad. You aren’t alone. Someone else will take up where you aren’t called to be. Take the time to set up boundaries now before you get too entrenched in this battle.
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.-1 Peter 5:8 (ESV)