This is a quick musing on my part. I’m typing this on my laptop after a dip in a thermal bath and a stroll up the Aranypart (‘Golden Coast’) of Siófok, a resort town alongside Lake Balaton in Hungary. There are storm clouds overhead, unleashing bouts of rain every five or ten minutes. It’s a fantastic atmosphere. I love the whistling summer wind and rain, and I’m happy to just sit here by the window and think and sip on some homemade lemonade.
A thought that periodically returns to me and always causes me some distress is a certain aspect of my personality. Once again, it’s on my mind. I struggle to find a solution, then it comes to me, briefly, before I forget it all over again. In the morning, I took a day trip to Tata, a beautiful town in northwest Hungary near the Gerecse Mountains, famous for its lakes and a 14th-century medieval castle, and while I was walking around the Old Lake with a friend, I was reminded of the solution again. This is what I want to write down, so in the future when I’m confused or lost again, I can return here for easy remembrance.
Basically, I’ve always been someone who likes to help people.
I like to give friends lifts in my car, I’ll buy dinner if you’re hungry, I’ll clean your kitchen because I find an absurd pleasure in the process of cleaning and putting things in order, and I’m genuinely just happy to be able to help. I don’t help others to feed my ego, or because I want something in return. I do it when I know it’s the right thing to do.
This sounds nice, but still, being helpful is quite a risky thing, especially when it comes to relationships and dating. There’s always a chance of being left vulnerable to abusers when “helping out” is your natural state of mind.
This is the real struggle I’m referring to — when feelings I develop for another person cloud my good judgement, and I throw my own needs and morality in the back seat in order to please another person who may not have the best interests for me at heart. I become motivated by fear instead of faith (in myself, and in God’s word). I fear offending or inconveniencing the other person. I dread that they’ll hate me if I disappoint them in the slightest way. I’m anxious that they will cast a silent, negative judgement upon me and then disappear, without offering any chance to understand or fix what I did wrong. Or, the worst fear of all: the possibility of learning that I’m not really that important at all, the other person is just tolerating me. I’m not a priority, but I’m too scared to speak up and find out the truth.
Writing out these fears and reading them now makes me laugh because I see how they are destructive and irrational, but I do genuinely struggle when my emotions and my natural desire to help others gets the better of me.
So, what’s the solution to fear-motivated people-pleasing? It’s sitting right here at Lake Balaton, alone, observing the summer storm battering the choppy waters. It’s going out for a swim, learning some new recipe or reading a good book, it’s trying out a new exercise regime, reminding myself of everything that’s important to me. There is great value in being alone when you feel you’re too caught up with someone else and you’re not being true to your ideals. And even if you’re suffering or lonely, you know that God is teaching you a necessary endurance. And so you are content and without fear, no matter what may or may not happen.
Most importantly of all: in solitude, there is the opportunity to remind yourself of the most valuable relationship you have in life, which is the one you have with God. Detaching yourself from other people is essential in reestablishing the truth that your worth as a person does not depend on someone else’s behavior. People will always fail you, but God never will.
I am not advocating becoming a reclusive hermit or mistreating people. I certainly don’t wish to do such a thing, my greatest goal in life is to have a loving family and husband, but giving myself some time to relax and look over this vast lake is just what I needed for the moment. To understand how to love and help others without letting my values get swept away by fear of rejection– this is a lesson I must learn over and over again. Tonight, at least, I think I got it.