The other day as I was flying back to Dallas, the flight attendant went through her normal announcement about what to do in the case of emergency. I usually tune this presentation out, but for some reason that day I kept listening. The flight attendant got to the point in her talk when she went over what to do if the cabin loses air pressure.
Do you remember what they say?
If you are traveling with someone else who needs help (like a child), make sure you put on your oxygen mask first, and then help the person next to you.
Why is this guideline given? The reason is that if the cabin loses air pressure, it can become difficult to breathe. If you are struggling to breathe yourself, you aren’t too much help to others. In fact, sometimes you can make things worse, because your own situation is such a struggle.
It’s the same way with helping. Often counselors, pastors, or other helpers can get overwhelmed with the degree of need they see in others. They give, give, and give, without realizing how depleted they are becoming. They try their best to help others, but eventually they lose their effectiveness, because they are burnt out. They didn’t put their own oxygen mask on first.
Instead, if you want to help others, take care of yourself first. It might seem selfish, but it’s really the only way to maintain your helping effectiveness over the long haul. Have a balanced life. Help others, but take time for yourself also. Figure out what you need in order to be a balanced person, and get those needs met first. Then, you will be able to effectively help others and meet their needs.
Don’t be the person flailing around without your oxygen mask, trying to help but struggling to breathe yourself.
Discussion: Are you a counselor, pastor, or helper? Do you struggle with feeling overwhelmed about the needs of others? What would it look like to ‘put your oxygen mask on first?’