to bear or not to bear: that is the question, 4 of 4


Biblea personal and biblical reflection, based on Galatians 6.2-5

To bear and not to bear.

When do we do which and how?

What is the surely very fine line of demarcation between the two?

Moreover, even when the choice seems clear, how do we deal with our pride of self-sufficiency or our sense that others, barring the altered necessities of aging and infirmity, ought to be self-sufficient? How do we deal with our fear of being rejected either in offering or in asking for help? How do we deal with our hurt and anger, particularly in our most intimate relationships, when our wants and needs are deferred or denied? How do we deal with the pride, fear, hurt and anger; all of which can kill our desire to give or to receive help?

I don’t know. The way is uncertain. At least, for me. For I am not a casuist. I do not believe that there are universal and immutable rules that I can apply with unerring certainty and clarity to each and every situation.


To risk bearing another’s burdens and to risk having our burdens borne by others…

To risk holding out a helping hand to another and to risk taking a helping hand held out to us…

To risk touching the tender places of another’s need and to risk exposing the awkward, sometimes terrifying nakedness of our need…

To risk making mistakes, overstepping or understepping our bounds…

To do all this, I believe, is what it is to fulfill the law of Christ, thus, what it is to be fully human, living faithfully into the purpose of our creation.

4 thoughts on “to bear or not to bear: that is the question, 4 of 4

  1. Ahhhhhh, so it’s all about the risk??!! Thanks Paul! I have to say I didn’t actually see that coming!!! Sort of embarrassing in a way given that assessing organization’s security risks is part of my vocation! But when I stopped and thought about it, of course offering yourself and your help to others is truly a risk, because the hurt can be so deep if rejected. It’s also a risk that if help is accepted, you can give so much and maybe even allowing the person to take advantage, that you put your own livelihood in jeopardy. I saw just yesterday on the Episcopalian Facebook page where a parent was asking for prayers because her drug addicted daughter was back in town. After she had stolen much financially and emotionally from the family, the woman said the only thing she would be offering her daughter was a trip to rehab. The risk here would be potentially losing their daughter forever but it seemed that she had already risked so much for her daughter and gained nothing as she fell further into addiction. I think the mother had already risked all she could.

    So just as I would tell my clients, we have to do what feels right for us, whether that’s saying Yes or No to bearing another’s burden or seeking help ourselves. Every single situation is different. Great series Paul!! Absolutely thought-provoking as usual!!


    • Loretta, thank you. I can add nothing to your commentary. Save to say, amen. Well… I will say that the example you cite is precisely where the proverbial rubber meets the road of discerning what one has to offer and deciding what one will offer. It’s always difficult for the reasons you mention about acceptance/rejection of the offer and the ensuing hurt AND in this case, the potential loss of a relationship of significant. Still, yes, it’s the risk. It’s always, I think and feel, the risk. Again, thanks.


  2. Paul, not only do your words ring familiar in the very nature of how your project your truth but today they represented an “I really needed to hear that.” I must add that the beauty of your words and shape of the expression of them was absolutely poetic and reminiscent of a new favorite performance art form of mine, Spoken Word. Words do matter and are part of “the risk”.

    I am happy also to read lwveny comments. One of the issues I work on here is Substance Abuse Prevention and Recovery Support. With the heroin epidemic here in Mass. I daily come in touch with parents and families devastated by this. From an observational stand point, I find myself daily reminded that what we know about how to judge what risk to take inevitably shapes our actions. Where this subject is concerned Americans are swamped with misinformation and a culture that has trouble risking finding the truth.

    In the end however your point about the risk is so critically important. It inspires us to act and not be stuck. In faith we accept that moving through faith is our way forward. In life regardless of faith we move through it. In contemplating the need to risk and accept it you are reminding me that there is even greater risk in moving without looking at the risk. Thank you.


    • Thank you for your poignant testimony to a human crisis of immeasurable proportion. Thank you even more for your front-line witness and work in helping and, doubtless, saving lives. I am touched deeply by all you have written and your closing word, which I perceive as the constant tension between discerning risk, and then acting AND acting without discerning the risk. In this, you remind me of Jesus’ counsel that we count the cost of discipleship before saying too readily “yes” to his call, “Follow me.” Thank you again and again.


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