To Bear or Not to Bear: That is the Question, Part 4 of 4

A series of Christian reflections on the application of biblical principles to the art of living.


To bear and not to bear. More questions…

When do we do which and how? What is the line, surely, sometimes, very fine, that divides the two?

Even when the choice seems clear, how do we deal with our pride of self-sufficiency or our sense that others 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 and fear, hurt and anger: all of which can constrain our desire to give or to receive help?

The way is uncertain. And I am not a casuist.[1] There are no universal and immutable rules (at least, I have not discovered them!) by which we, with unerring clarity and certainty, can apply to each and every situation.

Nevertheless, the Apostle Paul calls us to risk…

Bearing another’s burdens and having our burdens borne by others…

Holding out a helping hand to another and taking a helping hand held out to us…

Touching the tender places of another’s need and exposing the awkward nakedness of our need…

Making mistakes…

Overstepping and under-stepping our bounds.

For to do all of this, I believe, is, in part, what it is to fulfill the law of Christ, which is another way of saying what it is to be fully human as God has created us.

© 2021 PRA

[1] By casuist, I refer to casuistry; understood to mean the resolution of specific cases or circumstances of conscience or conduct through the interpretation and application of ethical principles or religious doctrine.

10 thoughts on “To Bear or Not to Bear: That is the Question, Part 4 of 4

  1. Paul,

    For me, Part 4 is a helpful conclusion. Still more questions
    yes, but also some clarity. My guilt of overstepping at times led to some anger and under-stepping at other times. I was happy to read that there are no rules because I would surely have broken some. I’ll carry on as you love to tell me and I hope I still have enough time in my life to answer the question to bear or not to bear!!

    As I mentioned in a FB post I Love that you continually contribute to my lifelong learning!!

    Much love!


  2. Ah, my beloved Loretta, please, surely, you know that contributions to lifelong learning are most mutual. In regard to my blog posts alone (not to mention so many other areas of my being), manifold are the times when your comments have stirred a deeper thought or given rise to a deeper feeling, leading me to rethink, to re-feel what I had written or spoken and, thus, to find a different newer path of exploration. For that, I am most grateful.



  3. Dear Paul,

    I have followed your trek with Galatians 6 with curiosity and reflection this week. I finally got out my Bible and read the verses today after reading your part 4 analysis. I believe your analysis has brought us home to two great truths with regard to the balance between bearing one another’s burdens and each carrying our own loads: 1) There are no hard and fast rules that we can simply turn to and apply in each and every situation we encounter wherein the seeming paradox arises; and 2) we are called upon to risk when it comes to fulfilling in relationship to our fellow human beings the obligations we deign to accept if we claim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Amen.

    Two memories arose for me as I thought this week about this seeming dilemma. The first holds some irony for me, and I have to smile every time I think of it. Some years ago, the church in which I was active was pastored by a man that I simply did not like. There were good reasons for my dislike, but I was careful not to make my feelings public in any way. I simply did not like the man. I did not like his preaching; I did not like his leadership; I did not like him personally. But one Sunday in the course of a sermon I was daydreaming through I heard him utter these words: “And how do we judge, I ask you, what, in any given difficult situation, is the right thing to do?” He answered his own question: “I submit to you that the right thing to do in any situation where we are in doubt is the loving thing.” I awoke from my daydreaming and heard those words in a way which made them land like the proverbial ton of bricks on my soul. Of course, the idea was not new, and I should have been able to articulate pretty much the same thought on my own, having lived as someone who claimed the Gospel for almost my whole life. But something about the way he said it, the circumstances of my own life at the time, and enhanced by who he was, or perhaps who he was not, to me, engraved those words on my heart forevermore. They now live in my consciousness like a mantra, and I find myself unalterably and joyfully grateful to a man I still cannot stand for having said them in my hearing that day.

    The other memory is not really a memory but the story, reported to me by my great aunt Sena, with whom I spent much of my adolescence, that my great-grandfather (her father) died as a result of a freakish accident when he and another man were carrying the trunk of a tree they had felled. She had no particulars, but apparently the two were at each end of the log carrying it over a distance and the other man either accidentally or on purpose unexpectedly dropped his end of the log. Somehow the suddenness and the great force of the jolt violently tore something in my great-grandfather’s body that resulted in his death a few hours later.

    I somehow plugged both of these memories into your questions about the Galatians paradox. What I came up with is more questions, I guess. First, how do we know what the loving thing is any given situation? And second, are there circumstances in which we can bear each other’s burdens while also carrying our own loads, perhaps because the burden of another and the load we ourselves carry are pretty much one and the same? My thoughts on the first of these questions meander to wondering if the loving also applies to ourselves, to other people, and to the broader world when we are trying to determine what our obligation is to bear another’s burdens. Maintaining others’ dignity and autonomous personhoods are considerations, I would think. Not being overbearing and insistent on how others live would be another. And with regard to others’ burdens and our own loads being the same, I think of the issues of racism, immigration, poverty, lack of educational opportunities, lack of good quality healthcare, corporate greed and overreach, etc. If in such circumstances we do not reckon on needing to carry our own load while not recognizing the perhaps even heavier burden it also is for our fellow humans, we may risk dropping our end of the bargain and visiting pain and loss on our fellow humans.

    I think my additional thoughts and questions are all part and parcel of your conclusions that there are no hard and fast rules and that perhaps what we are always called upon to do when we seek to love our fellow human beings (as ourselves) is to risk doing SOMETHING rather than simply passing on the opportunity to involve ourselves in the wellbeing of the world and our fellow humans. In other words, to show up, love in hand, ready to take part rather than pass by.

    You opened Pandora’s box for me with this, Paul, and I’ve loved spending time with your questions. Thank you, as always, for inspiring me to dig within my heart for answers and for deeper understanding. And Loretta, I could write another whole piece this long about how you bear others’ burdens while standing squarely on your own two feet all the time. In so doing, you have encouraged and inspired so many people to stand and carry their own loads when they had no idea they were capable of doing so. I think Paul would be so proud of what you do!

    Much love to both of you,



  4. My dearest Karen, so rich, so full your post that I dare not think, much less believe that I am able to reply with the same depth and clarity of insight. Thus, foremost, as always, I thank you for reading, reflecting, and replying.

    Your two memories are poignant and powerful.

    As for the first… This resonates within me, I confess, for you speak to an experience I have had myriad times. There are folk I have known whom I did not like. (Now, truth to tell, sometimes it was because I recognized traits or habits in them that I despised within myself. Hence, the very fact of their existence posed a mirror before me whene’er I was in their presence to behold the worst in me. Tho’, yes, sometimes it was because I recognized less-than-noble traits and habits, which were not mine and, nevertheless, characteristics that I considered to be less than those attaining to the fullness of our common, created humankindness.) Moreover, in said moments, on occasion (not always), I had the experience you describe. Someone I did not like said something that burrowed into my consciousness as a seed being planted, and in a good way. (And, yes, at other times, someone I did not like exhibited a dignity and a nobility that I admired, even lauded.)

    As for the pastor whom you couldn’t stand, yes, amen, his word, as with you, rings true to me. The right thing always is the loving thing. (Now, of course, it is ours to discern and to decide in the concrete circumstances of our lives what the loving thing is! And, as I believe, and as you and Loretta concur, there are no proverbial hard-and-fast rules that dictate to us in every case what the loving thing is, it is left to us to try, to risk, and, most importantly, as you aver most eloquently, to do SOMETHING!)

    As for your second memory… Kyrie eleison! How horrific the death of your great-grandfather. And how searing is this illustration of the bearing and not bearing of a load!

    I think, too, of your question: “…are there circumstances in which we can bear each other’s burdens while also carrying our own loads, perhaps because the burden of another and the load we ourselves carry are pretty much one and the same?” I believe, yes…

    This past week, in the course of a conversation with a friend, I revealed something of myself that I consciously had not intended. However, given my, now, characteriological frame of mind that flows in images, though I was speaking in the abstract, I, in the next breath, was led to share my identification — and one not in the best light — with the subject matter. The very next day, my friend, speaking of something else, exhibited the same less than noble trait about which we had spoken the day before, first, abstractly, then, as I digressed, quite painfully personally. I made that observation, which opened a door in his soul, I believe, to made a similar admission. This led us to recognize how akin we were, far more than before that instant we had realized, in bearing, in sharing a burden. Where this goes from here, I cannot say. Nevertheless, ’twas a revelation!

    In closing my comments, for now, I can do no better than quote you again, only with the preface of a hearty AMEN!: “I think of the issues of racism, immigration, poverty, lack of educational opportunities, lack of good quality healthcare, corporate greed and overreach, etc. If in such circumstances we do not reckon on needing to carry our own load while not recognizing the perhaps even heavier burden it also is for our fellow humans, we may risk dropping our end of the bargain and visiting pain and loss on our fellow humans.”

    I close, too, with a hearty AMEN!



  5. Thank you, Paul. I am so struck by the richness of the vein you struck when you decided to explore Galatians 6. There are so many possibilities and so many facets to the consideration of how human beings bear and share burdens or reject the sharing aspect of their God-given humanity. It alludes to the natures of individualism and relatedness and what we enter into when we accept or reject relatedness as the spirit in which God created us as God’s own children. In your eloquent words, “Where this goes from here, I cannot say.” May I venture to speculate that God may have uttered something similar in the immediate aftermath of having created humankind and granted each one of us a free will of our own?

    With gratitude and love for you as a wonderful discussion and exploration partner,



  6. Paul and Karen,

    I read this quickly yesterday and went WOW!! to both of your deep sharing of your stories. I had a story I wanted to add too, but as I mentioned before I am doing a class and had to finish my “homework” which this weekend is upscaling my “virtual speaking room”. Whew it’s a process!!

    Here’s my story. Right now at work I am dealing with two people I don’t like who work in a different division than I do. The primary reason I don’t like them is that they are not performing their training jobs and myself and my great friend and coworker who are the trainers in our division are having to “bear their burdens” and build a 60 hour training class for these two people. One is incapable of doing the job, and the other is refusing to do the job. No disciplinary or corrective action has been taken with either of these two people and this is the FOURTH time they have come to me and my coworker to bail them out. I have my own 60 hour course that I built myself without any help and I feel others who are making the same (or more) money as me, should also carry their own burdens… And when they don’t their supervisors need to take action. My own class which I teach 4 times a year starts this Tues and I haven’t been able to do my usual prep for my class because I’m building content and quizzes for the course that has nothing to do with me or my job description. BUT when people call on me, I pitch in as the ultimate team player though I’m hating every second of this exercise while the other two people sit there doing nothing! Then on Jan 27th another coworker in my division I was close with died suddenly! He is the 8th person under the age of 55 who has died suddenly in the 8 years I have been at Immigration (including my 42 year old boss who died while typing on her work laptop the year after Tim died). I believe that the stress of this job and agency is taking people’s lives. This latest death finally pushed me to decide that I needed to leave this job before it kills me too. From my original training team of 4 formed in 2015, I am the only one still alive. I told management last week that I am leaving at the beginning of June. I’d leave now but it’s going to take a few months to replace me given the security clearance required and the current hiring freeze that’s in place doesn’t expire until April 1st. I need to train my replacement as well. I’ve decided to carry the burden of training someone properly rather than leaving in two weeks without caring. This 4 part series has help me to focus, to question, and to know that I have made the right decision for my life. I’ve slept well since notifying my boss that I will be leaving. I am ready to speak fulltime in the areas where my passion lie. I’m thankful for my LEGO building which has kept me sane during this last two months of doing three different jobs at work.

    When I read your stories it reminded me that I’m doing the right thing… I maybe shared too much by telling my agency I’m leaving in June, BUT for me I needed to say it outloud so I stick with it, and so that I’d be able to carry the anger and stress I know this extra work is causing my health. Now I can smile and say, “here’s your course” and know it’s the last one I have to do for someone else.

    Much love to you both for helping me along this painful journey without even knowing it!!



    1. Dear Loretta,

      I echo everything that Paul has said above. Above all, be well and take care of yourself. Not only do we love you and want you around for a long time to come, but you have a wonderful calling to which you are dedicated and faithful, not to mention absolutely marvelous at, and the world needs you. I am so glad for the news that you have announced your intention to retire from a job that seems to undermine and destroy people and in which you are expected to carry far more than your own fair load. You have gone above and beyond in bearing others’ burdens, but the agency must be accountable for its work, how its employees perform, and what effect the stress and strain has on them. I wish you could be out of there before June, but I also know you must be true to your own sense of how you must leave.

      You will be in my prayers, my dear sister. I’ve been in some similar situations, and it is very hard and lonely. Call on us when you need us for a listening ear, or a supportive shoulder. And I’m so glad you have those LEGOS! You were meant to build and create!

      Much love to you, Loretta,



  7. “Where this goes from here, I cannot say.” May I venture to speculate that God may have uttered something similar in the immediate aftermath of having created humankind and granted each one of us a free will of our own? — Karen, amen to this. Reading and reflecting on your question brings me again to consider an idea that we’ve shared and discussed, now, many times. That is, in the realm of process theology, God is in the pilgrimage of becoming alongside the creation. If so, and I believe so, then this God could and would say, at the dawn of creation, “Where this goes from here, I cannot say!”

    Loretta, to you, here, now, as many times afore for myriad reasons, I say, “Wow!” Thank you for your transparent liberty in sharing with Karen and me your discernment about the hyper-stress-related character of your agency labors and your decision to resign/retire. Foremost, dearest sister, Karen and I want you to be well and to stay well. The end of our journey through this world, surely, will come, though we need not hasten it or contribute to others accelerating the approach of our demise! In this, your discernment and decision, I admire your willingness and ability to be the consummate team-player, both in preparing a course that the others are unwilling and unable to do and to agree to remain in fold so to train your successor (and though you refer to your replacement, aye, not possible; for none can replace you!). And, as for being of (any!) help to you, I am grateful!



  8. Dear Karen and Paul! Thank you!!! It really feels great to have made my decision and I knew I’d be loved and supported by you both. I look forward to training my successor (thank you Paul) and I’m sure the time will speed by!!


  9. As you, dearest sister, carry on, love, much love to you!


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