“While we as people of God are certainly called to feed the hungry and clothe the naked, that whole “we’re blessed to be a blessing” thing can still be kind of dangerous. It can be dangerous when we self-importantly place ourselves above the world, waiting to descend on those below so we can be the “blessing” they’ve been waiting for, like it or not.”
― Nadia Bolz-Weber,
There once was a little girl who believed that all good things will come to her if she is really nice and helps people. However, for me, it has turned into a bad fairy tale. I am not sure if it is Chikungunya or my mother’s death that spoke to me this morning as I was sweeping my floor, yet I had an awakening. I. Have. A. Savior. Complex.
It’s the wrong time of the year to have this awakening. NO! I have too many people I have to fix this holiday season! NO! I live in freakin’ Nicaragua…in the campo…where people live in plastic shacks without running water, dirt floors, and outhouses. NO! This awakening can’t happen now!
So, what is this horrible Savior Complex and why did it dawn on me this morning that I have it? “The savior complex is a psychological construct which makes a person feel the need to save other people. This person has a strong tendency to seek people who desperately need help and to assist them, often sacrificing their own needs for these people.” ( Savior Complex Anyone?)
Let’s take a look at my careers…I was a social worker, a Special Education teacher, and worked in a Child Abuse Protection Agency. I worked with juvenile delinquents, felons, the homeless, mentally ill, alcoholics, drug addicts, and impoverished people. On top of this, I always put others’ needs before myself and sometimes my family. Yep! The signs are all there. I. Have. A. Savior. Complex.
But, why? And why now? I have an unassertive way of helping others. Unfortunately for me, some people I help ( especially in Nicaragua because their needs are so great) become unappreciative and ungrateful. In other words…they get used to it and they expect it. They feel entitled to receive help from me, simply because they need it and they’ve always got it.
My Nicaraguan neighbor is a good example of this. For five years, we have shared our lives together as friends, extended family, and neighbors. She cleaned my house, not because I needed someone to do it, but because she needed the money. I won’t go into all the sad details, but recently I had to cut ties with my neighbor. So while I felt good because I could help her, I felt bitter, frustrated, and betrayed by her disloyalty at the same time.
While resuming the daily job of sweeping my floor that my neighbor used to do, I became angry! Revengeful! Hateful! How could someone whom I considered to be my friend, be so disloyal and unappreciative for the countless things we have shared? Where’s the love? Why was I overwhelmed with grief? I. Have. A. Savior. Complex.
There are many facets to having a Savior Complex. In my limited belief, I thought that by sacrificing my needs to help others, I will get their love and approval and have a happy life. Not so!!!
I said to myself this morning, ” I can’t give anymore. My ability to give has been sucked out of me, like the vacuum cleaner that sucks up the dirt and dog hair in my house.”
Yet, with this new awakening, where do I go from here? It’s the Christmas season. A time for giving. I don’t know how to respond to this new feeling of not giving to others to seek approval and happiness. Now that I realize I have the Savior Complex, I tell myself, it is a noble thing to do, even though I am starving and sucking the mental well-being out of myself. I. Can’t. Give. Anymore.
Now that I know I am afflicted with this new and strange feeling, I believe the best thing I can do is face up to the practical consequences it has had in my life. Being a savior is neither noble or practical for me. I have to take care of myself, first. Believe in myself, first. Know that I create my own happiness within myself, first.
It doesn’t mean that I will never be a giver again. But, I feel that I have to do it for the right reasons…not because it appears to make me happy…not because I want to feel loved and appreciated…not because I place myself above others and feel “Blessed to be a blessing.”
I am not sure where this new path is taking me, but it is a relief that I know I have a Savior Complex, and I can take baby steps to put my needs above others…to be gentle, kind, and loving to myself, and not to feel selfish for putting my needs first.
I will slowly learn to give and ask for what I want, to help and be helped. I think it is a delicate balance that I need to learn. I am grateful for this awakening…I think. I only wish it hadn’t swept over me this Christmas season. Tis the dawning of a new age…new paths…tender loving paths. I hope I can walk strongly and lovingly along this new path to become a better and stronger person.