“You don’t have to be a superhero. It’s not your job to take care of everyone. Don’t do things just because you think you have to. We like you regardless of what you do.”
*More on that quote later. And no, I’m not playing the “Jesus is the TRUE superhero” card*
I love superheroes. These guys and girls with superpowers, weapons, gadgets, fighting skills and probably loads of money have incredible backstories that shape their identity. They’re known for saving the day when catastrophe strikes, seeking justice, and rescuing those in distress. They keep the world safe from the forces of evil and are placed on pedestals for the world to see, honor, and hold in awe.
Everyone wants to be the next Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, or Captain America. We walk around with their shirts, act out their mannerisms, buy their action figures and watch their movies. They dream of kicking evil in the face, and who can blame them?
There is a lot of fame, glory, honor, and appreciation that comes out of saving the day. But the sacrifice…oh, the sacrifices made for this to be a possibility.
I submit to you that behind every “perfect” image of a superhero are shards of their former selves, breaking away by the second. Every mission and external conflict takes an internal toll, bringing them to an eventual funeral and burial of their real selves.
Is it because they are more loved for what they do than who they are?
I was Super-Jon for a while; my own superhero and the eager go-to guy. If there was something that needed to be done, I would do it. I cared for the people around me and wanted to make sure they were happy. I was too dependable.
I frequently saved the day, but my real self would fade every time I donned the cape and mask. I was too willing to drop what I was doing to save whoever was flashing the distress signal; how could I say “No?” I hated the gift given to me. The past two years were filled with obligations and a LOT of stress: Church, work, plays, assignments, projects; all created a mountain that became increasingly impossible to scale by the day.
Fellow reader, this may resonate with you. Maybe you’re the guy who says yes to everything because you think saying no might ruin your image or your relationships with others. Or you’re the girl who fears missing out and feels obligated to be involved in everything. You fear becoming irrelevant. Everyone around you is happy and content, but you are a complete mess.
You look at your closet, where your costume hangs, and ask yourself if it’s worth it anymore. You’ve already given up so much; what else remains? What would people think if you retired or needed to take time off? You want to be appreciated, and maybe you are. But ask yourself, Is this building up or destroying my health?
Let me tell you something: You don’t have to be the superhero all the time.
“But I’m being like Jesus and serving everyone around me,” you say. But Jesus also stepped away and took time to rest and pray.
“But I can’t have any off days. I’m always needed,” you fight back. Keep telling yourself that as you continue running your mind, spirit, and body into the ground.
“But won’t I be selfish?” you ask out of concern. Selfishness is being inconsiderate of others; looking out for number one. It’s having the resources, but unwilling to help. How can you help if you don’t have the resources?
Here’s an unpopular thought. Your health and sanity are more important than saving the day. When you’re stressed out and overwhelmed by life, you may need to slow down and take it a day, even a moment, at a time. Your mind and body will issue distress signals when you’re doing too much; will you heed or ignore them?
You can’t make others happy while making yourself miserable.
We save the day as superheroes, but who’s going to save us when we’re in distress? What happens when saving the world becomes a burden? What happens when we experience burnout?
Burnout is real, folks. People walk away from church, ministry, and even faith because they keep pouring themselves out past empty. They become isolated, making themselves prime targets for the enemy. They are more prone into falling in sin and are judged more harshly when they do.
You see, every hero has a hidden weapon, and it packs quite a punch. It’s simply the word “No.” One word, two letters. Simple, yet highly effective.
Some of you fear the word “No.” I understand that. You’re afraid that saying “No” means rejection from your peers. The arch-nemesis of every superhero is the fear of man, who constantly assaults us with his telepathic attack on our love for others and our willingness to serve them. People are our fatal flaw.
However, you don’t have to be a jerk and say no to everything. Being a hero is an extraordinary gift, but you need to use discernment in what you say yes to. After all, you can’t split yourself into multiple people. When you say “no” to someone; most of the time they understand and move on. Others may whine and/or complain, but they’ll eventually get over it.
**By the way, if someone is trying to guilt trip or manipulate you into saying yes, it’s a sure sign that someone only wants you for what you do for them. Do some reevaluating**
Now, for the quote at the beginning of this post. I was stressing over some decisions I needed to make. I told a good friend about the struggle of always wanting to save the day. That was her response to me; I would even have her periodically remind me of this. It put my situations into focus once again.
Beloved, know that you are liked, loved, and appreciated for who you are and not just for what you do. If your health is at stake, you need to say “no” and step back.
Also, you need to rest. I cannot stress this enough. Rest with Jesus.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. — Matthew 11:28-30 (emphasis mine)
Are you exhausted and carrying a burden? Come to Jesus and He will give you rest.
Are you overworked, stressed, and/or anxious? Come to Jesus and He will give you rest.
Are you paralyzed by the demands on your time? Come to Jesus and He will give you rest.
That is a promise, and God fulfills His promises. Don’t ignore the warning signs. Pull back on your superhero duties and come to Jesus. He is not a taskmaster, nor will He condemn you if you need to step back. Walk with Him, hang out with Him, learn from Him, and you will be restored.
If we go so long without resting and staying plugged into Jesus (cliché, I know, but track with me), we will burn out. We’re human, not gods.
But we think we can keep pushing. One of my close friends calls it “giving out of a deficit.” What is there left to give to others when you are past empty? It’s like trying to get a car to run when it’s out of gas. It is important to push yourself, but only when you have enough in your tank.
When you come to Jesus with your burdens, pains, problems, and burnout, He will give you rest; no ifs, ands, or buts about it! Don’t try to explain your way out of resting. Like I said before, what Jesus said is a promise; He is faithful, He will do it (1 Thess. 5:24 — He who promises to sanctify you is also faithful in giving you rest).
Friend, superhero, here’s my encouragement and challenge to you. Say no, come to Jesus, and He will give you rest. It’s that simple. Grab a friend, therapist, pastor, somebody if you need to.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, for he cares for you. – 1 Peter 5:6-7
The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe – Proverbs 29:25
I’ve heard it said this way. Your “no” now can lead to a greater “yes” in the future.
Until next time, remain hidden in the shadow of His wings,