Now, the explanation. When you see a loved one hurting, in pain, struggling with something, or feeling down and out, it is almost instinctive to step in and do whatever is needed. For some reason, when you love someone, you just take on all of their burdens, trials and struggles and make them your own. That’s not entirely a bad thing, though. We are told, as Christians, that if we love someone, we are to give up our lives for them. What’s a little inconvenience of taking on burdens and tasks in comparison to sacrificing your life?
But there’s a problem. You really can’t do everything. There are just some things that you are not equipped or capable to do. Oh, sure, you could probably struggle your way through it, I’m sure. I don’t know the first thing about cutting someone’s hair, but I’m sure I could figure it out and give my wife a new ‘do when her hair grows in. My wife doesn’t have the first clue about how to change the oil in the car, but she could probably do it if I was incapacitated… maybe.
The point isn’t really whether or not you can do something. You probably can do what needs to be done. But there may come a time when you may simply be unable to do it. I shared in my book, The Caregivers Beatitudes, one such situation that happened during my wife’s cancer treatments. It was a situation that, try as I might, I just was inadequate to be able to meet a specific need of hers. As much as I tried to show mercy to my wife in her time of need, I just could not. It took someone from outside our little family to offer to meet that need for me to realize that I needed mercy myself.
That’s at the core of these kinds of things. It’s very obvious that the person going through the illness, or grief, or pain, needs mercy. But it isn’t always so obvious that the caregiver needs mercy as well. Caregivers are a tough lot. We take on a lot and we roll with a lot of punches. Many times, we sit on the sidelines and let our loved ones get the attention. And why not? They are the ones who need the help, not us. We don’t need any help. We’re caregivers. We can do it all. Or so we think.
But as much as our loved ones need mercy, we need it, too. We need to be cared for and we need our rest, but we rarely take it for ourselves. What we need, ultimately, is for someone else to step in, take us by the hand and tell us, “It’s OK. You can rest now.” We need to be shown mercy, just like we have shown mercy to our own loved ones. That is, after all, why the beatitudes matter.