Beliefnet
How Great Thou Part

When you are willing to share the messy side of life – your own worries, fears, mistakes, and heartache…

Other people feel safe confiding in you.

Just yesterday, I was chatting with someone experiencing divorce and the topic of stress and anxiety surfaced.

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Here’s the thing.

Worry and anxiety are extremely misunderstood and therefore people tend to conceal their anxiety. 

They mistakenly view it as a sign of weakness.

That if the people in their world knew how they were truly feeling they would somehow view them differently.

Because I am a writer I am the opposite of most. While others feel safe in withholding I feel safe in purging. However, even I once viewed worrying as a weakness. Something I did not want to speak of. I used to admire my husband. He seemed so strong. He didn’t worry about anything or anyone.

How my worldview has changed.

I was not weak because I worried about everyone and everything. I was strong because I took on the worry of others. An emotional caregiver keeping an infinite amount of balls up in the air. 

I strive to be what I refer to as a “Missionary of Life.”

I want to tend to the emotional and spiritual wounds we suffer on this great journey. 

That is what the worrier is. They are Missionaries of Life. They live far outside of their world. They are the ones who check on you when no one else does, watch your dog even though they have allergies, or lend you money when they are down to their last twenty. They make you soup when you are sick. Send a card when you are down.

The worriers think of everything others do not. 

My marriage counselor once told me, “Your greatest strength can also become your greatest weakness.”

He was referring to my overly caring nature which made me lack boundaries and remain in a bad relationship for too long. Yes, that means I am an enabler and I have lessons to learn with that knowledge. However, it shifted my thinking in more ways than one.

It is the better part of an individual – their overly caring nature which makes them more apt to be a worrier.

This thing called ‘worry and anxiety’ is not born of some personal defect but rather an immense capacity to care and love and give. 

Ironic one of a person’s best qualities can manifest itself into something they also do not like about themselves.

It’s important for someone struggling with excess worry, stress, and anxiety to grasp this because a worrier tends to be hard on themselves by nature and this can just extend the length of the anxiety. On the contrary, when a worrier begins to realize it is actually one of their greatest strengths which can leave them feeling overwhelmed and hard on themselves, it’s easier to let it go.

Much like the example of being an enabler, a worrier who is suffering anxiety needs to address it. We can’t worry about and save the world. We can only do what we can do within limits.

The problem? The worrier has long been worrying about everyone but themselves. 

What can they do to rescue or fix the situation?

They need to give themselves a break and realize the anxiety is coming from the inability to fix everything for once. Or the fatigue in worrying about everything and everyone for so long. 

And it’s okay to let go. 

But worriers don’t know how to stop worrying. It’s ingrained in them. Instead, they need to accept we only control ourselves. We can’t always rescue people. Even the ones we love most.

Because the worrier isn’t preoccupied necessarily with making their own lives perfect. 

They are driven to make the lives of those they love perfect.

They tend to be overly responsible for others.

And often it is ‘others’ who need to become self-responsible in some aspect of their own lives.

Once my marriage counselor asked me to describe the qualities I share with my mother. When I was finished he said, “You forgot ‘strong.’ “

“Strong??!!” I said. “You think I am strong? This big hot mess sitting before you all this time?”

It takes a significant amount of energy to worry about the world. In fact, once it catches up with you it’s quite exhausting. And these are roles we somehow took on in childhood so we have been pleasing, rescuing and fixing for a very long time.

I no longer see worrying as a defect. I see it as I now view enabling. How my greatest strength became my greatest weakness when I lacked the boundaries to at times worry more about myself than another I wanted to rescue. Of course, as aforementioned, this is the wise counsel of my marriage counselor. Who God Bless him had to tell me these things for a very long time. He is an extremely patient man.

After all, it’s hard to reverse a skill you learned early in life and perfected quite well.

I am now proud I care.

Rather than embarrassed, I am a worrier. 

And I have finally surrendered my emotional caregiver role.

Okay, we know that’s impossible but I do have fewer balls up in the air these days.

I am still dedicated to being a Missionary of Life – as a writer – after all, every worrier does need an outlet.

And proud I was raised by a woman who taught me to be so empathetic I could truly feel the pain of others.

Yes, she was also an enabler but she was strong.

And so am I.

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E-mail: Colleen.Sheehy.Orme@gmail.com
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