You don’t want to burden others with your problems, but you’re struggling to cope. When does “I don’t want to be a burden” become unhealthy? At some point, your desire to protect your family and friends doesn’t just backfire, it creates serious problems in your relationships.
My dear old grandma (“Baba” in Ukrainian) never wanted to burden me with her problems, so I never knew what was going on in her life. After she died I found out about her health issues, financial struggles, and relationship history. I knew very little about her because she never really opened up to me. She loved me deeply and didn’t want to bring me her problems.
After my grandma died I learned that the seemingly unselfish desire not to be a burden can actually backfire. Not talking to your friends and family about your problems creates distance, builds walls, and isolates you from authentic relationships. Why are you so reluctant to share your struggles with people who care about you?
Recently I received a comment from a She Blossoms reader. She needs help, but she feels like she can’t talk to her friends or family. Why? Because she doesn’t want to be a burden to them.
“I’m empty inside and I need some guidance,” she says on 10 Warning Signs of a Bad Relationship. “I have my friends, but I don’t want to burden them with my issues. My two closest friends are dealing with aging parents and health/life issues of their own. I can’t be a burden to them and I don’t have family nearby. I have nobody.”
When You Don’t Want to Burden Others
These three tips aren’t just inspired by my reader, they’re also rooted in Leviticus 14 (I’m working on a She Blossoms Through the Bible project, writing an article for every chapter in every book of Scripture). Leviticus 14 is all about leprosy and living outside the Israelite community so you don’t pass the deadly skin disease to your friends and family. Talk about being a burden to your friends and family.
1. Consider how your problems affect other people
In Leviticus 14 God tells Moses how the priests were to assess lepers after they were healed from the disease. The priests had to go outside the camp to check if the afflicted Israelite was truly healed, then conduct an elaborate ceremony to reinstate him. The leper had to live outside the camp because he was highly contagious, and leprosy was a painful and deadly disease. If the leper lived with his family and friends, he would have burdened them with his problem. The reason he had to live outside the camp was to protect his loved ones from being afflicted with the horrible, incurable disease of leprosy.
What effect will your burden really have on friends and family? My grandma didn’t want to tell me her problems because she wanted to protect me. I guess she thought her financial struggles and health issues would contaminate my own bank account, physical health, or mood. My auntie Doreen, on the other hand, had no problems sharing her burdens! She’d tell me all about her breakups, addictions, marriage problems and opinions of others. The truth is that I didn’t feel the “burden” of my aunt’s problems. In fact, her struggles actually made me feel more competent and confident. She showed me that even grown adults can have problems and still enjoy an adventurous, interesting life.
2. Stop being too proud to share your burdens with others
Back in ancient Middle Eastern times, saying “I have to leave because I have leprosy” was the most loving and caring gift you could give your family, friends, and community. Sharing a skin disease was seriously burdening the people you love — maybe that’s where this idea originated! A Jew with leprosy wasn’t just a burden to the community, he was a direct threat to public health and safety. Leviticus 13 (Are You Pretending to Be Happy in Your Relationship?) tells us that lepers had to live outside the community until they were healed, which was almost never. Can you imagine how humiliating that would be?
One reason you don’t want to be a burden is fear of what people think. You’re too proud to talk about your relationship problems, health issues, financial struggles, and troubled children. If you reveal what’s really going on in your life, you risk being vulnerable. Known. Honest, real, authentic and unprotected. You may say you don’t want to burden your family and friends with your problems — and it may be 50% or even 80% true. But have the courage to admit that you’re also protecting your ego. You don’t want to talk about your problems because of what people will think.
3. Consider the effect of not living openly and honestly
In Leviticus 14 God gave Moses dozens of detailed instructions on how to check to see if a leper was healed. Then came the good news! The purification, cleansing, and return of the healed Jew to the Israelite community was a long symbolic process of burnt offerings and atonement. A bird was released, signifying freedom and a new beginning. The healed, cleansed leper was welcomed back into the clan — and he’d be a fool to go back outside the camp to live. Why would he live on the outskirts, apart from his community, especially since he was officially no longer a burden to his friends and family? He was free and able to restore his life and relationships with the people he loved.
How does not sharing your struggles affect your relationships? My grandma refused to talk about her problems partly because of her generation. She grew up in an era of family secrets, privacy, lack of communication, shame and guilt. She also didn’t want to burden me because I was in my teens and twenties when I lived with her, and she was pushing seventy. She thought I was too young to hear her problems, that I couldn’t handle them. My auntie Doreen, on the other hand, never had a problem “burdening” me with her mishaps and adventures! Who do you think I was closer to?
When you refuse to share your burdens with your friends and family, you miss the point of love and relationships. You also fall into the trap of feeling like no one cares about you, like you’re all alone in the world.
One of the biggest things that struck me about Leviticus 14 is how deeply God wants to be involved in every aspect of our lives. He knows about our skin diseases, depression, affairs, problems and fears. Jesus is familiar not just with every aspect of our selves, He experienced the pain and grief of being human! We are never a burden to Him.
In Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
You can’t tell your family and friends everything. Even if you laid all your burdens at their feet or on their shoulders, they would’ve be able to help or heal you the way you need help and healing. For true freedom, joy and peace you need the power of the Holy Spirit and the strength of God. Learn what it means to follow Jesus.
Don’t keep your burdens to yourself. If you absolutely cannot talk to your friends or family about your problems — or you have no friends or family — read How to Find Someone To Talk To.