I didn’t realize this until eight or nine years into therapy. I always thought I opened my arms for anyone and everyone who needed help because of my years training to be a nun, as my responsibility to “let peace begin with me,” the final refrain to “Let There Be Peace on Earth,” a favorite hymn we sang at St. Charles Borromeo Grade School.
Only in the safe place of therapy did I discover that much of my rescuing others had more to do with a fear of setting boundaries than with my generosity. Yes, I have a good heart and am extremely sensitive to the hurting people in this world. But I am also scared to death to say, “Stop. I’m sorry. I can’t help you.” Because every time I did that growing up, the emotional consequence was brutal. It hurt so much that it was much easier to give in to the needs to those demanding something, than to try to fight back for my own needs.