(This is part 8 of the “Selfie” series. Read part 7 here.)
Duty and loyalty are virtues, but without self-protection, these virtues can form a seedbed which invites abuse. Let me see if I can explain.
Loyalty to Yourself
During a particularly difficult season of my life I saw a counselor who quickly sniffed out my addiction to duty. My concern for doing what was right in other peoples’ eyes was entirely governing how I was acting. He stared me down once and summarized what he was seeing: “When people consistently live in a passive way, they feel disloyal whenever they do something that’s in their self-interest.” At another time he accused me to being addicted to “right”. Doing things in the right way, whatever was expected by society at large. “Is it ever enough to just say you’ve had enough?”
There are a lot of reasons we sacrifice for others and deny ourselves. Here’s one: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others”. (Philippians 2:3-4). I believe in that teaching…and I hold that in balance with other teachings that remind us that even Jesus himself wouldn’t allow himself to completely buckle to other peoples’ intentions. “Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.” (John 6:15).
When You’ve Had Enough
There is a lot to be said for the virtue of having had enough. When I realize that I’m being taken advantage of (or continuing to subject myself to inappropriate behavior) and I actually do something about it, I will be better off. And so will my world.
“Without the ability to end things, people stay stuck, never becoming who they are meant to be, never accomplishing all that their talents and abilities should afford them.” Henry Cloud, Necessary Endings.
Passive people feel disloyal whenever they do something in their own self-interest, but if they stay the course, they will be healthier and happier and more productive in the long run, and everyone in their circles of influence will be better off as well. Last week a client of mine told me about her own journey of self-protection. She said, “I declared 2016 to be the Year of No!” It’s a good start.
You can make progress, and if you don’t believe me, call me, and I’ll help you figure out how.
Next time: Self-Preservation (and why we need to combat it).