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When I Had Something Stuck in My Teeth

When I Had Something Stuck in My Teeth

For each will have to bear his own load.  Galatians 6:5

When I got home from work the other evening, my wife pointed out that I had something stuck in my teeth. I went to the mirror and indeed found a large piece of raisin clearly stuck there. Not a big deal . . . except that I’d eaten raisins earlier that morning, which meant that I worked for hours with that thing in my teeth. I saw patients and staff all day and apparently never looked in a mirror. My first reaction was embarrassment. Followed closely though, was a flash of anger. Why didn’t anyone tell me? This is their fault!

Now I do think that you could make a case that if you see someone with their zipper down or something in their teeth, that you have some responsibility to say something. However, from my perspective, I had to accept that my faux pas was my own fault and that I could blame only me. My teeth and my appearance are my responsibility, not my coworker’s responsibility.

This was Paul’s message in today’s passage. Though he wasn’t talking about social embarrassments, he did insist that we’re each accountable for our own actions. Previously he said that when we see someone struggling with self-destructive behavior, that we have some responsibility to intervene, trying to correct it. He also said that we must help bear one another’s burdens. Now though, he tempered those commands with this truth – Each will have to bear his own load.  

What’s the application? For me, working in addiction medicine, I do have a significant responsibility to do right by my patients. I must live correctly myself, which means caring for them in the best manner possible. I am not however, responsible for the outcome. If a patient relapses, it’s not my fault. I do what I can and then the patient has a responsibility to do his or her part.

As Christians, this is an important concept. We do have an obligation to live rightly ourselves. We must love others and do what we can to help those around us. There is however a line where our responsibility ends – a boundary where we stop, and the other person starts. We do what we can and then we leave the results up to God and the other individual. We would be at some fault if we didn’t do our part, but ultimately, the other person’s failure (or success) is not our burden.

At the end of the day, we’re responsible only for our own actions. We cannot change anyone else. We can only control our own behavior. Each will have to bear his own load.  

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