This week we respond to Meridian reader “Frustrated,” who complained about people who try to make her feel guilty because she is not available twenty-four hours per day to respond to their every wish and whim. This is a common topic, and several readers wrote in to give their own take on the situation. Here’s what they had to say:

I love the sentence: “Guilt is the pricetag of being in charge of your own life”. With that said, both service and sacrifice are part of what we are not only to do, but have become part of us as we strive to become like our Savior. However that doesn’t mean doormat.

I try to help whenever I ask. However only I know existing time demands on my life, my energy level and prior commitments I already have in my life.

My way of being supportive if I have to say no are to say: “I’m sorry, I’m not going to be able to do that, however I could help with…” and try to find something else that I could do that will still help with the
need.

Second, I substitute a lot in my ward. I keep a list of names and telephone numbers handy who also have the flexibility to substitute and if I can’t I say “I’m sorry, I’m not available to help this time. Here are
some other names and numbers you may try.”

I feel that lets the person know that I’m supportive of whatever they’re trying to do, even if I can’t do it myself.

As far as those family assignments, the same idea could work. “I’m sorry, I’m not going to be able to plan the breakfast for 200 individuals; however I’ll be happy to supply (orange juice; cups; syrup, whatever). Please let the person that you give that assignment to that I’ll be able to do that for them.”  And then stand your ground.

Fences aren’t built to keep people out. They’re to protect what’s inside. Emotional fences serve the same purpose.

Lynn

That was a great response, Lynn. I can’t wait to point it out to my husband, who is about to face the ultimate guilt trip in our ward, the annual strong-arm demand to contribute to the Friends of Scouting Committee. If people would just ask him gently, he might respond, but when demands are made and a risk to his eternal salvation is implied he tends to dig in his heels (and I don’t blame him a bit). Your response of “no, but…” might provide an excellent compromise. Thanks.

The situation described could have been avoided with better communication. Both sisters could have talked together about how they spend their time, and the commitments that they have, and come to understand each other and to avoid taking things personally. Because it does hurt when we think others aren’t making an effort to sustain us, or don’t understand the load that we have to bear.

Every quarter one member of our Relief Society presidency calls the visiting teachers and asks them how the companionship is working, if they are they OK visiting the sisters assigned, and so on. Problems can be spoken about then, if changes need to be made the Relief Society presidency can make them without other parties being informed and their feelings hurt. 

When the Relief Society presidency assign companionships and gives them sisters to visit, they take into account whether people prefer day or evening visiting, and whether they live within reasonable travelling distance. Assignments are prayerfully made.

Vim, UK

That quarterly checkup by the Relief Society presidency is a good idea, Vim. If presidencies aren’t doing that, it could save a lot of hurt feelings in the case where the pressure is coming from a visiting teaching situation.

I used to be sensitive.  Then I got real.  I leave my house at 5:15 a.m., and don’t get home until about 7:00 p.m.  I get up at 4:00 in the morning. I go to bed at 8:00 at night.  When can I possibly visit teach during the week?  I have no children at home and I am single.   I don’t take offense, and if someone takes offense or seems hurt then I simply tell them my schedule.  I shouldn’t have to tell someone my schedule but I find that when I do, it usually drives the point home. 

I find it interesting that everyone I have shared my schedule with says the exact same thing once they are “enlightened.”  “Ooooh.” Then there is silence. People don’t mean to be rude or overly sensitive, but sometimes they just are.  

I would be inclined to tell the Visiting Teaching Coordinator my schedule.  One would hope they would not put sisters with totally incompatible schedules together, and I am sure they do their best not to. 

As for me, there is nothing I can do about my work schedule. I know if I had me for a companion, I’d request another!

Busy Bee with Scabbed Knees

If I had you as a companion, Scabbed, I’d request another too! No offense meant! I hope for your sake that your work is enjoyable and rewarding. I don’t know if I’d be able to work that schedule if it weren’t.

I, too, am very busy, as is my visiting teaching companion and the sisters we are assigned to visit.  It’s been hard, and I hope that my companion doesn’t feel insulted when I tell her that I am busy (I know I am not insulted when she says she is busy).  

I had a short conversation with our Relief Society president after church a couple of weeks ago (I serve in Primary now so I don’t often get to chat with her), and she straight-out asked me if my companion and I had been able to find time to go visiting.  I told her not yet, but that we would keep at it and do our best.  

She told me then that assigning visiting teaching companionships was the hardest part of the job, because so many women have such busy lives, it’s hard to get two sisters whose schedules jive.  I believe her, and feel bad for her! I certainly don’t envy her.  

I wish I had an easy solution to offer Frustrated.  Sounds to me like her companion needs to re-read some counsel that has been given in past general conferences and has not been retracted nor superseded (and I’m paraphrasing here): Be kinder to each other, and more understanding; and, if we are offended, it is because we choose to be.


Hang in there, Frustrated.  Perhaps a sincere conversation with her explaining your work situation and schedule will help her to understand.

Busy in the Midwest

I’m with you, Busy. People these days are so busy that it’s a wonder anybody can get together with anyone else. The last thing any visiting teaching companion needs to do is to send someone on a guilt trip for having other obligations.

Over the years I have learned to politely say, “I’m really sorry, but I’m not available to do (thus and such.)  Perhaps another time you can call on me.”  Then I either move physically away or start a new topic of conversation before they have a chance to say anything.  As long as I have been polite but firm in my answer, how they react is their problem, not mine.  As I have consistently handled situations like this, people have learned that I mean what I say and so I am seldom pestered with repeated begging.

Linda in Sandy

That’s one of the rewards of being consistent, Linda – people don’t nag you. Thanks for sharing your experience. (P.S. It helps in parenting, too.)

It is frustrating when people try to get you involved in something that you can’t handle at that particular time in your life. I think it’s important how you say “no.”  I think sometimes we personalize people’s answers too much. Satan can do a number on us, especially on women’s thinking, and many of us don’t have a good self-image all the time.  Therefore it’s important to let the person know that it is definitely not personal, when you say “no” to an activity.

I remember in my younger years being homemaking counselor in Relief Society. I asked someone to be chairman of the luncheon committee. They told me she needed to think about it and get back to me. When she called back, she told me that she wasn’t able to do it because she prayed about it and didn’t get a good feeling.

She told me that in the past if she took too much on, her family suffered. That was good enough for me. I did not ever want anyone’s family to suffer because of something I asked them to do.  That was the best way of saying “no” I had experienced.

Jean

I have a friend who uses the same reasoning, Jean, and it’s a good one. Most decent people step back and think twice before making a request after they have learned it’s going to cause a crisis at home.

It took me years to understand that sign that hung on the wall of the school secretary:  “Your lack of planning does not mean an emergency on my part.”  Its corollary ought to be, “Your lack of a schedule does not mean mine is empty.”  

Another that might help here is, “There is a world outside yourself.”

Visiting teaching is a complicated dance because there are three partners (two teachers and one teachee) and the only way it can succeed is if everyone hears the same tune (I Have Work Enough To Do (224)), keeps the same rhythm (Thy Spirit Lord (157)), and works together (As Sisters in Zion (309)).   So, Let Us All Press On (243) and seek out Each Life That Touches Ours For Good (293), even if that means getting a new companion Because I Have Been Given Much (219).  

A Good Visiting Teacher

What a humorous way to end today’s letters, Good! I especially liked your quotes.

Okay, people, that’s what I have this week. If you have something you’d like to add to this topic, or if you have a topic you’d like to suggest, please send your responses to [email protected]“>[email protected]. DO NOT USE THE FORM ON THIS PAGE, NO MATTER HOW CONVENIENT IT LOOKS, BECAUSE IT IS LIKELY TO GET LOST. Write directly to [email protected]“>[email protected]. Stuff doesn’t get lost there.

Until next week – Kathy

“There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full.”

Henry Kissinger

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