The Importance of Being in Other People’s Business


Lately, I feel like everyone’s dumping ground; the scapegoat of society; a literary foil of Jonas from The Giver.  This friend just found out her boyfriend is cheating on her, this other friend can’t handle the stress at work, another friend’s aunt received a life-altering diagnosis. This student’s dad just passed away, someone needs an admission’s essay proof read, another student just obtained a career-ending injury. The girl on my team just got dumped by her boyfriend, a colleague isn’t getting along with another, a boss just sent an unprofessional and condescending e-mail, my sister’s having a breakdown, the dog’s tail just got stuck in the door. Oh, and we don’t have any food. It’s a never-ending cycle of putting out other people’s fires. Like, even people I don’t even know seem to unload their burdens onto me.

It honestly gets really exhausting. Last week, in fact, I calculated how much time I spend on other people’s business, and how much I spend on my own. In a 24 hour period, I probably spend about 20 hours on other people, and 4 hours on myself. Like, I am pretty sure I spend part of my sleep, dreaming about how I can help solve other people’s problems.  I can’t even imagine what Jonas experienced, since the burdens he carried were 100 times worse than mine.

As a solution maker, I decided that perhaps I should just weed my garden, diminish my ‘circle of influence’ so people don’t come to me with their problems. If that former student needs an essay revised, too bad. I don’t get paid to help them anymore. If that friend is upset about her boyfriend losing his job, well, shame on her, because we all saw it coming anyways, so she shouldn’t be surprised. And, if that girl is having pregnancy problems, oh well. I don’t know her that well anyways, so there is nothing I can do to help.

I really was on my way to weeding my garden. I stopped responding to crisis-induced text messages, ignored my e-mails, abruptly changed the subject when the conversation got too serious. After all, I have my own problems to worry about (um, like, when is My One True Only coming?…)

But then, a conversation in the copy room reminded me of why I involve myself in other people’s business.  The conversation was basically, “Did you HEAR what so-and-so said in the lunchroom the other day? I can’t believe it. That is so disrespectful. No wonder no one likes her. Oh, and did you notice she even had her phone out and was texting the whole time during that meeting? I can’t even believe that audacity. She has a really weird relationship with that new teacher, too. Britany, what did you think about the whole thing?”

Well, in all honesty, when we were at lunch that day, my mind was thinking about the family friend who is having brain surgery next week, and the high school student who just died in a tragic car accident, and that boy who just informed me of the bully in class. I wasn’t paying attention to what so-and-so said, because I was busy thinking about what I wanted to write in the ‘thinking of you’ card. I didn’t even notice her texting on her cell phone, because I was brainstorming ideas for my team to show support for the girl’s family. And, I don’t really care about her relationship, because I am contemplating how I want to approach the bully situation. So, as exhausting as it can be, and as little time as I therefore spend on myself, I realized that I HAVE to continue being in other people’s business, I can’t cut it out, because it reminds me of the important aspects in life. No, in the grand scheme of things, the gossip, the drama, the judgmentalism is really very trivial, petty, and should be a non-issue.

Philippians 2:3-4 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others”. In church every week, we take communion in order to remind ourselves of Jesus’ sacrifices for us. Yes, while it is important to recognize these sacrifices, I think we are also being reminded the importance of being in other people’s business, because it puts our lives in perspective. We are asked to spend some time reflecting on Jesus, not on ourselves. While we spend time praising Jesus, lifting up His name during worship, and we recognize Jesus, as savior, I think what Jesus also represents is this importance to extend outside ourselves, to carry other people’s burdens, to live in the trenches, and to put other’s way before ourselves, because it reminds us that life is not about the drama, the gossip, and the judgmentalism. If we are truly living like Jesus did, we wouldn’t have time for any of that pettiness, because we would surround ourselves with real life issues–not ones constructed for our ‘entertainment’.

So, thank you, everyone for letting me be your dumping ground. Keep it coming. Prevent me from entering into boredom-driven abyss of drama, gossip, and judgmentalism.

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