For most of us, being an assistant is not a 9-5 job. There are last minute schedule conflicts, urgent emails that need immediate reply, and travel delays. But even more than the admin, the responsibility requires being available both for our leader and the people we serve at all times. Because of this, it can be easy for bitterness to arise for "all the tireless hours we work" and resentment can creep in for "all we do". In this final post of the series on Setting Healthy Boundaries, we need to address the temptation of a skewed perspective. This may be the "OUCH, she read my mail" post that can sound rough, but truly the heart behind it is to encourage you to embrace this great calling.
If we have been diligent to understand the expectations of our role and set big rocks and small stones which keep us accountable and healthy, the final piece is to keep our heart in check as we serve.
After reading and standing on God's Word which always brings alignment to our hearts, it is also good to watch out for what we can call "the skewed perspectives". I offer these because at some point I have experienced each of them, so please don't hear it as one condemning you, but rather an empathetic heart understanding what you are working through and coming alongside you to remind you of the true picture.
The "Martyr": This usually is a result of misunderstood or unclarified expectations and loose boundaries. I have learned that this is the one I struggle with most often (especially as a wife). We make sacrifices of our time to serve the needs of others who never asked or expected us to make these sacrifices in the first place. Then we are bitter at them for our bending over backwards to meet their needs, while they don't even know why we are doing it at all. An even greater extreme is the one who offers to make these sacrifices and then is bitter that we have to do it. Please notice that this is always a result of lack of communication or bent boundaries, and this is all a matter of the heart. With a pure heart, we can make the same offer and be full of joy at the privilege of serving without the bitter martyr perspective.
Heart Check: Do I find myself bitter toward anyone? Do I offer to make sacrifices that I then find myself resenting others for it?
Action Steps: Communicate clearly with your leader. Make sure that your "over and above" help comes from a pure and grateful heart to serve. Always view your sacrifices in the light of your blessings. Remember you are an assistant not a martyr- don’t sacrifice your health or your family for work— don't feel guilty about a missed call, eat dinner with your family, and spend time with your kids.
The "170 hour work week": The irony of this perspective is in the title. There are only 168 hours in a week, but sometimes we can struggle with this perspective that all we do is work. This is a viewpoint that can sneak in from a few different angles. Often when people struggle with this, it is because we don't have a clear picture of our week due to odd hours, it seems like we are "always working". Or we think that we are workaholics simply because we aren't efficient with time management. An example of this is when we haven't left our desk all day, but don't realize that those 5-10 minute "breaks" on Facebook took up 4 hours, so now we have to pull "over time" to get regular work done. Finally, sometimes we forget that part of what we do is something that is not in our job description, but we wanted to do it as a volunteer or opportunity to serve outside of work which along the way has become an obligation, OR that we have built a tower of each role and made it one big sacrifice of our time (ie: husband, dad, assistant, hoa president, sports coach, small group leader).
Heart Check: Do I feel like I am working all day and night, and have no free time? Do I lay down at night and wonder where the week went?
Action Steps: Install RescueTime or similar software on your computer, which tracks your time spent. This will guarantee increased productivity, once you can see what you do all day. If you feel you are doing too much, think through what things you can delegate and make time to build a team (this is an area I need to get better). Learn when and how to turn things off. Also, check out The Fringe Hours by Jessica Turner. This is a great book by a dear friend who encourages us to make the most of our time and find those hidden pockets of "me" time.
The "By the Clock": Some people are workaholics, but other are so about the clock that they forget assisting is not a 9-5 job. If my boss is overseas, my hours may be adjusted. If he is traveling and there is a flight cancellation, I will be up and on the phone. If my leader is speaking at an event, I will do my best to be there. We will have a difficult time keeping a punch card, while aspiring to be excellent assistants.
Heart Check: Am I doing only what is asked of me and never offering to go above and beyond? Is this a job for me or a responsibility that God has entrusted to me for this season (whether for six months or 60 years)?
Action Steps: Do at least one thing each week that is over and above what is asked of you. Pray about why God has placed you in this role and ask Him for a heart to embrace this season for as long as He calls you to it.
Any of these perspectives is just one degree off of a pure heart. They can creep in so easily and make us resent, get bitter, and seem burned out when really we just need a realignment of our role. Don’t get so busy IN it, that you lose perspective OF it. Do you best, bring your best, but know that you will always make mistakes. You will never be perfect— find freedom, not discouragement in that. Let's take steps to check our hearts & minds and bring correction so that we can serve as David did with both a pure heart and skilled hands.
SIDE NOTE: Some of you have done a realignment but you are truly serving at capacity. For this, I would encourage you to TALK TO YOUR BOSS (not other people). Don't wallow in it, and definitely don't quit. Take a moment to write it out- what is the problem, what are you doing that is overwhelming (are they "martyr" areas or just too much to do in too little time), and most importantly what is your proposal for adjustment so you can continue to serve faithfully and joyfully.
Recently I met with my boss to let him know that I was operating at capacity and couldn't be the BEST assistant I wanted to be because I was entrusted with other areas. Though I loved the other ministry opportunities, I knew that God called me to be his assistant FIRST and that these other things had to change. Did I WANT to give them up? Not really, but my health, my priorities, and my family were being neglected because of them. My boss listened and I was able to get help so I could better serve in the role God had called me. Be aware that this doesn't always happen overnight, but trust that if you have brought it to light and to prayer, then the Lord and your leadership are working on it. (See this post for a reminder.)
Your Turn: Which skewed perspective have you struggled with (or am I the only one willing to admit it ; )? Or is there another one not listed that you would add? And what steps did you take to bring realignment?