Tag Archives: sanity

Only the Martyr

I was having lunch the other day with a new friend of mine, who happens to also be an only child, when it suddenly occurred to me. We onlies are expert martyrs. We stink at receiving. Not compliments. Not money. Not gifts. Sometimes, not even solicited advice is welcome.

Maybe it’s due to the fact that we spend our entire lives attempting to negate those stereotypical labels of being spoiled brats. Maybe it’s because we became SOOO good at sharing that it morphed into sacrifice. Whatever the case, it’s not ‘healthy’ to stink so badly at receiving. It’s not ‘healthy’ to play the martyr all the time no matter how naturally it comes for us.

So, why isn’t it good to be a martyr? I mean, giving is good, yes? Taking is bad, yes? Well, not all the time. Here’s the thing – martyrdom, like anything else, is good in small doses only. Here’s my experience-breeds-wisdom based list of WHY you should take up….errr…taking.

  • It makes others feel good to give or help – I am aware that this isn’t ALWAYS the case (but really, what is?), still…9 times out of 10, if someone is offering to help you with something, it’s because they can and they genuinely want to, and by giving them the satisfaction of helping you with something you need, you are actually still participating in a different form of giving, right?
  • Sanity Maintenance – The more we take on, the better we feel about ourselves, right? Wrong. Up until a certain point, we may feel quite impressed with ourselves, but if you keep throwing more balls into the juggling queue, eventually you’ll end up dropping them all, and it’s not so funny when someone signs you up for the funny farm.
  • Taking time for you and yours – Chances are, when we say ‘yes’ to help, we are also saying ‘yes’ to sharing that freed-up quality time with loved ones. While you may do no more than spend that time cuddling or sharing a meal and conversation, one thing is for sure, you won’t regret it. Life is so full of activity sometimes that we forget to enjoy the moments. The more moments we have in full presence, the fuller our lives. Period.
  • Reciprocity – If none of the other arguments worked, this one SHOULD. The more we allow others to give and ourselves to receive, the more others will allow us to give in the future. Nobody should keep score in love and friendship. I have bought into that philosophy since first watching ‘Love Story’ back in the 90’s (I know…. a little late). The motto for that movie was ‘Love means never having to say your sorry’. If either love or friendship were tallied on a simple putt-putt score card, I’m betting that neither the scores aren’t always tied. This is because we’re human! I’m also betting, however, that when all is said and done, the two most successful ‘players’ end up pretty close to each other – both numerically and emotionally.

In other words, we have to work on being REAL. Being real means admitting when we’re exhausted, lazy, overwhelmed, or just plain over-committed. For the sake of our sanity and the sanity of our loved ones, we’re doing no one any favors by playing the martyr, no matter how naturally it comes to us.

So go on…take that outreached hand. It’s actually comforting to know that we onlies are not doomed to forever be lonely, but we have to make that choice to ‘take’ a chance on others.

‘The only time it’s a good idea to repeat pattern is when we’re trying to learn a new concept. And I repeat. The only time it’s a good idea to repeat a pattern is when we’re trying to learn a new concept.’ -me

We all know this, because most of us have lived it in at least one area of our lives. We’ve heard that ‘the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over, but expecting different results’. We’ve heard it more times than we should have to hear it, and that in and of itself is ironic. Obviously, if we need to keep hearing it, there must be an underlying white elephant wearing rose-colored glasses within these four walls that can’t talk because there are no flies on the wall. Cliches are like patterns, because patterns become so routine that they disappear, and this is bad. Very bad. If we can no longer see them, we are doomed to continue such patterns…of patterns.

How many times have you gone to the grocery store hungry? You know better. You’re going to overspend. This is a universal truth, maybe even a universal pattern. Still, if you’re not mindfully avoiding that pattern, it’s bound to happen again. I’m hungry. I have no food at home. I should replenish food at home. I shall go buy food. I want everything I see. I’m hungry. Notice the whole ending-up-where-we-began thing that just happened there? It happens in every aspect of life.

This ‘repetition rule’ is especially true in relationships. For instance, a woman who has been abused as a child will either be the first person to walk out of an abusive relationship (because she recognizes the pattern and refuses to repeat it), or she will actually seek out abusive partners because she believes she can change her pattern or because she has missed the pattern altogether. Men are just as likely to repeat patterns. If a man has grown up with an enabling mom, he tends to seek out an enabler in his relationships. Similarly, if a man has been raised with a more dominant mother, he will seek out a dominate woman. He understands his roles in either of these situations. If he chooses to live within his comfort zone, he also chooses to repeat his patterns.That’s really not so much comfortable as it is ignorant.

These examples are cliche. They are the subject of countless talk shows, soap operas, sitcoms, Hollywood movies, and reality TV shows. They show up within our families, within our own lives, within the lives of our children, friends, neighbors, pastors – really anyone and everyone. Whether or not we choose to repeat patterns depends primarily on one thing; our willingness to change – change our thinking, change our self-images, and change our roles in relationships. Like all concepts, until someone recognizes the pattern, ‘gets it’, and understands that they are only self-destructing by repeating such patterns, nothing will change.

Try eating before you go grocery shopping. Your spending will decrease. If you’ve survived a string of failed relationships, try dating someone completely different. Your appetite for filling your heart up with wrongs will dissipate. What will replace the ‘wrongs’ may surprise you, because you’ve never before experienced a winning relationship. The trick is to make a change. As strange and uncomfortable as that may seem, it’s certainly more rewarding than remaining where you were – disappointed, abandoned, and hopeless. Change is never easy, but for the sake of sanity, it’s worth trying. And hey, at worst, you will have at least learned a new concept in trying something new.

So step out of the box. Look back inside of your own patterns. If you thought you were happy in there, but ended up realizing you were really just stuck inside of your own patterns, constantly complaining about playing the same unhappy roles, make a change. Any change will be for the better. Promise.