My closest girlfriends have nicknamed my therapist Marg, probably because I talk about her so much. I’m already an introspective woman, but it’s amazing what a good therapist can cull out of you.
Once in a good season I threatened Marg that I’d cause trouble in my own life just to be able to keep seeing her. Sometimes I go in there and bawl my little cliché head off, but other times I go in there and we slap our knees. We laugh hard together. I tell her my funny stories, and it feels a lot like friendship, except I pay her and she can question my motives at every turn and bold-faced call me names like martyr. Once I considered breaking up with her as my therapist just so we could be actual friends, but wisdom told me better.
It’s strange how good it feels to laugh, isn’t it? Those are the things we think about with a smile before we go to sleep at night. She laughed with me, I’ll think, and I hold friendships with ones who laugh and cry with me very close to my heart. I’ll think about a laugh hours later, not because laughter is a rare exchange for me, but because it’s an element in friendship that lightens my load. It always takes me by surprise.
One time Marg asked me about my friendships, about the role I play. I told her as far back as I could remember I have been the friend to call in times of trouble. She was seeing a theme in my life. I’ve identified myself as a fixer, and in fact, there’s not a stage I can remember not loving that role. It’s the thing I have to offer. I’m a burden bearer, the big sister, the secret keeper, and I love it.
The problem is when Burden Bearer is the only name you call yourself, when you begin to think the world will fall apart if you’re not there to hold it together. Marg asked me: Who are the friends you’ve called this week? I had called the friend having a miscarriage, the friend struggling with addiction, and the friend in the middle of a divorce. I wouldn’t have it any other way, and I hope these friends would call me were I in the same situation.
Once in a while I can find myself in particularly tough season, like the rest of you humans. My parents divorced this year, and these are things you can’t write about online. In fact this is the first time I’ve mentioned it. I didn’t want to see it in print. I didn’t want it to be true, the single most painful event of my life.
It’s opened my eyes even wider to how many of us are hurting in silence. Life keeps going. We’re leading in churches, folding all the clothes, running meetings, and buying groceries with a searing wound in our hearts. In times like this it’s interesting to see all the ways we hide and cope.
Somewhere along the way, I came to believe it was my soul purpose on earth to take on all the problems so those around me would be okay. If I can hold it all together, maybe I’ll keep them from pain. But the truth is this: If I can deal with their pain, then maybe I won’t have to deal with mine.
At the end of last year, I broke. In fact, this is the kindest of mercies during my parent’s divorce. I was hurting and piling on the pain of others until I finally broke. I finally saw it because I literally couldn’t bear up under it. I fell apart because I am not the fixer.
I am not the fixer. Say it with me.
I’ve prayed for help to give my burdens and the burdens of others to God, but I never really believed until this year that He is the Fixer.
To believe that God is the Healer and the light-load sharer has brought more healing to my life than I’ve experienced in years. It’s crazy how faith in His good character will do that.
Now I call my friends simply because they’re my friends. Yes, sometimes they’re hurting, but equally so am I. Other times we’re just laughing. My capacity to be a burden bearer is much greater now, because I don’t even pretend to hold up under pain. My friendships feel more whole because things don’t rest on me for long. I’m a better friend, because I’m taking my own heart to the Healer instead of hiding it in other people’s problems. I’m a better friend because I’m closer to laughter now than I’ve ever been.
So tell me this. Are you a fixer? Is there a pain under all the burden bearing you’re trying to ignore? I promise it’s worth it to live like you’re not the answer. I promise that a woman who withholds the burden from God is not the woman you should be calling in times of trouble. Call the woman who laughs. Be that woman.
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
This is raw, real, and spot on. I am, eh hem, a few years older than you and my name is Bev and I am/was a fixer. Much like you, God in His mercy, had to break me in order to build me back up in a wholesome and healthy way. He does that, I see. Sometimes reaching the point of breaking is what we need to get to in order to open up a crack in ourselves so that God’s light can finally shine in. I am still learning…but am becoming better at being a “burden lifter” (lifting others’ burdens onto God’s altar) vs. being a “burden bearer”. One last thing…allow yourself to mourn your parents’ divorce. Talk to Marg. Even though mine was a verbally and emotionally abusive marriage and finally a divorce; when my daughter said she was going to see a therapist, I rejoiced. Divorce is hell…on everyone! Thank you so much for sharing from the beautiful depths of your heart. When I see your smiling face on (in)courage photo ops, I see a true happy smile.
Blessings to you this day,
You are so right, Bev. Mourning has been a big part of my life this year, and my how long it takes, huh?
Keri Lynn Siegel says
What a great perspective: being a “burden lifter”, instead of a “burden nearer”. God calls us to live and support each other; BUT we are to cast our cares on Him, NOT each other. Thank you for that fresh perspective. Be blessed.
Melody Reid says
Amber I love this. I’m a fixer to and often forget that He is the fixer. Thanks for this reminder.
Thank you, Melody.
Ms. Witi says
Good point…and it is making me think of how I talk to and “handle” my kids’ problems they come to me with.
I think as a mom we try to be the fixer for them (especially in the day of the “helicopter parent” who is always hovering over) then, when they experience problems as they grow they don’t have the skills to deal with their emotions alone or how to move on from them.
I will be addressing my kiddos a little differently for sure now. 😉
YES! My breaking point actually really really changed the way I parent. I forget sometimes, too.
Amy Riker says
I also try to fix my children’s problems, and they hate it. My daughter actually told me to stop because she needed to learn from her mistakes. (If only I were as wise as my ten year old daughter.) Sometimes I remember just to pray.
I ask that I more readily turn to praying for, and not to fixing, them.
Keri Lynn Siegel says
Me. Witi, Thank you for sharing. You know, the philosophy of the world brings so much confusion, EVEN WHEN it’s well intentioned. It tells parents, their role in their children’s lives is to “fix it”. Then, when something happens that we can’t fix, it makes us feel like bad parents and we carry around THAT shame. It’s not our job to fix everything; only to be there in love, support, and prayer. I learned THAT the hard way. We don’t just have to give our own problems and those who come to us for advice, support, and prayer to God; but we ESPECIALLY have to give our kid’s problems over to God in prayer. Thank you for sharing your wisdom. Be blessed.
Amy Riker says
I appreciate your thoughts. I am mostly drawn to others I can “fix,” but that often leaves me empty. As I develop my relationship to Christ, I realize I want to more fully develop my relationships with others. I, too, long for friendships that feel whole.
Thank you, Amber, for sharing your thoughts.
I am there, that breaking point, my life feels like its crumbling around me right now because of the actions of others. Your words are piercing my heart but I know it is exactly what I am supposed to be hearing. For too long I have been the burden bearer in friendships. I dont want to share my burdens so I try to bear everyone elses. However, I am stuck in a situation now where I cannot hold the weight of those burdens any longer, they are crushing me. I’m always telling other people to give it to God and He will handle it. Well, this time I think I need to take my own advice. I just dont know how. I am going to my womens prayer group at my church this morning so I think its time to reach out to someone in my group and share my burden. I am afraid.
Thank you for being Gods messenger to show me light in my darkness.
Keri Lynn Siegel says
Greetings, What a great word! I have struggled with this myself. I remember 15 years ago, God called me to be an intercessor and a spiritual watchman. I knew at that time, an intercession was one who stood in the gap for others, through prayer, until there was a breakthrough. I had no idea what a spiritual watchman was. He had me take a job as an unarmed security officer to give me a natural parallel to my spiritual calling. Now, today, I’m MORE comfortable praying for everyone else than myself. When God was training me, someone I loved and respected told me it was selfish to pray for yourself. I believed the lie. The Holy Spirit has since corrected that in me by saying, “Unless you let Me deal with you, I can’t use you. THAT is selfish.” So, I try to yield when He’s dealing with me; but I grew up in a family where it wasn’t safe to express— let alone process— negative emotions. So, I stuffed them and developed a food addiction; and I took them out on my vehicle, so the Lord had me taken off the road. I’ve learned since then, through a painful series of events to let God deal with me; but from time to time, I slip back into my comfort zone of neglecting myself. Please, keep me in prayer on this because I want the Lord to be able to use me. I want to be effective for the Kingdom of God. Thank you. Be blessed.
LaToya Brown says
Thank you for sharing in such an honest way. I too am a recovering fixer. I’ve always been attracted to the broken, and then I married a man who came from a shattered upbringing. For years I wanted to show him “the light” and somewhere along the way I became his source. After 13 years of marriage, I finally unplugged, repented, and admitted I could not be his source of happiness, nor did I have the answers. It was freeing. Although it’s very easy to slip back into the role of “fixer”, I remind myself I was created to ” help,” God is El Shaddai.
Amen same here. He is the load lifter, burden bearer, life restorer, etc EVERYTHING THAT WE CANNOT BE TO EACH OTHER.
Jamie S. Harper says
Amber, I believe we were knit together in a similar fashion. I was a fixer. To some degree I still try to be a fixer. I think I used to try to fix people so I could be important. Ouch. God has been freeing me of it though broken places. I think that in recent years I have lost my laughter. I used to just be a laugher. When I had no words, I laughed. I want to return to her a bit of her. Instead of the heavy burden carrier. I needed this sweet exhortation. Thanks!
Thank you for sharing this powerful message, Amber. I have acting like a “burden bearer” also. I felt like it was my job to act like a sponge and soak up all the pain and problems so that others would be alright. Eventually, I became too full to soak up more pain. I was forced by illness to admit that I’m not able to clean up all the hurt around me. A good friend tried to wake me up to what I was doing. She stopped me in my tracks by telling me, “There is a God, and you are not Him.” I try to remember that. It is hard to be the one who needs help. I am struggling with this now, but I remind myself, “There is a God!”
Joy Lenton says
I can relate to this, Amber. As an elder twin (well, by half an hour!) in a dysfunctional, broken family, I grew up thinking it was my role to fix everyone and keep them happy. It has taken years of acknowledging and exploring my own brokenness to convince me that the best thing to do is to offer what little I can then point them to the Burden-bearer of our souls who alone can take each care and bring beauty out of adversity’s ashes.
Strangely, the more broken my own life became, the less others seemed interested in leaning on me! We all need someone who can be Jesus-with-skin-on for us, don’t we? I still lean toward absorbing the woes of others and pray for them, but I try not to allow it to steer me (or them) away from casting care on Jesus first and foremost. This is such a helpful and inspiring post. Thank you!
Beth Werner Lee says
I didn’t think I was a fixer. I’m good in a crisis. I’m good at showing love (all 5 love languages) in a warm Greek way I received from my mother. But the close community I’ve just moved out of showed me that I was too quick to offer my answers, too quick to judge, and instead needed to pray and wait for God to show me what to do or say. It’s a humbling thing, to realize you’re proud of being good! But the solution is as you say; bring all things back to God the fixer! That’s humility, right? Acknowledging God always, in all things. Thanking him restores my rest. Giving problems to him restores my trust. Asking him for wisdom gives me peace. I just need so many reminders because I keep living out of my flesh instead of walking with the Spirit! Argh! So, humbly grateful for this reminder, and praying God to comfort you more and more in the midst of your suffering, Amber.
Sister, this is good, and it pulls out the truth in all of us, fixer or not.
Robin S says
What a beautiful reality check. I so appreciate your willingness to be transparent for us. A gift from Jesus through your pain. Im so sorry!
Beth Williams says
So sorry about your parent’s divorce this year! I pray God will bring you a peace so you can mourn.
I guess you could call me a burden bearer/fixer. If someone had a problem I wanted to fix it–take them a meal, send a card, etc. Didn’t want the world to know about my problems–oh no I was fine!! Until last year. My aging dad got really sick-in and out of hospitals/ERs. God finally broke me because I talked a lot! I would call a friend and cry on her should-all the while crying with her over her parents illness. We walked this journey together! It is important for people, especially women, to open up to friends and talk about your problems, laugh with them and enjoy each other!
Praying for you during this time!
Julie Garmon says
Ohhh, how I love this post. And I identify. Big time! Am sharing now…. Blessings ~~
Thank you for this reminder. Yes, I know this feeling as well- like its my role to be the superhero in someone else’s story. But really- what can I possibly do except bring my self, my friends and all our troubles to God, the real, true CAPABLE hero of all of our stories?
Thank you for sharing, Amber. Well said.
I am not the fixer. Saying it with you. 🙂 My parents separated 8 years ago and I’ve never known exactly what to say about it. It’s so painful and hard and complicated. I’m sorry. Glad that you were able to fall apart. And yep, I seem to remember learning a very hard way that I was not the fixer. Still learning.
But laughter is THE BEST and being able to laugh with friends was and is one of my biggest sanity savers.
I am a recovering “fixer”. After years of trying to save everyone and always feeling the weight and expectation to fix people(especially family and friends) I had a breakdown and my body just could not do it anymore. I had to learn how to function all over again. The past five years I have learned so much about myself and how it is God’s job to fix and I just get to live life along side people. VERY different. (: I feel so much better now engaging with people knowing that I am not responsible for their lives. I actually have a larger capacity now! Thanks for sharing. I really resonated with this post! And thank you for this blog! It has been such a blessing to me the past few weeks since finding it.