I know a few girls on a sports team who carry around with them a pretty huge burden. As the best players on the team, they find that there are huge expectations for them to perform at extremely high levels all the time. And if the team happens to lose, pretty much all of the responsibility for the loss–as well as the coach’s dissatisfaction–falls on their shoulders. Add to this burden all of the things that happen at home, with family, with friends, at school, etc., and it becomes pretty clear that there’s a lot of pressure on these girls.
I was talking to one of them the other day when I got an idea. I walked over to a bookcase and pulled out several very heavy textbooks and brought them back to her.
“Will you do me a favor?” I asked her. “I’d like you to carry these books around all day, and never put them down for any reason, not even for a second.”
“Are you crazy?” she asked me, laughing. “No way!”
“Well,” I told her, “these books present you with a pretty clear choice. They’re extremely heavy, and they’re visible and you can hold them. But the emotional and mental burdens that we carry around aren’t physical things, so we often don’t realize when we’re carrying them around. But we still have a choice–we still can choose not to carry around something that someone else tries to burden us with. We have to be aware of what’s going on, and we have to be willing to make a conscious decision, but that decision certainly isn’t impossible to make.”
And as I spoke, I realized that I often need to take my own advice. I think that next time someone wants to burden me with a problem or issue that really isn’t mine to be burdened with, I’m going to think about some very heavy textbooks. And then I’m going to decide not to carry that burden with me, and in the process make my life much more pleasant.