Doing it all impossible, cheats family

You can’t help everyone.

That’s something nearly all of us need to remember. Or as Paul Sartarelli’s wife sometimes reminds him, “Paul, you’re not the Messiah.”

Sartarelli is a pastor at The Chapel, and he struggles when it comes to meeting someone else’s needs.

“The temptation is to immediately want to help when someone asks,” he said. “Sometimes, we need to remember the person really doesn’t want us to fix the problem — it’s too big. But listening helps.’ ”

In other cases, the problem demands action.

Money for a funeral. Tutoring help. A ride to the doctor’s office. Not just one ride, but several in the next month.

On the weekend when we promised to spend time with our family or when the church or school is having a fundraiser and they ABSOLUTELY POSITIVELY need us.

Down deep, we know we just can’t do it.

“Sometimes, we need to just say no,” said Dr. Diana Swoope, a pastor at Arlington Church of God. “It has to be a clear NO. Not with an apology. Not wishy-washy, so the person walks away not sure if you’ll help. We all have only so much time, so much money, so much energy. We can’t do everything.”

Some of us have had moments when we’ve said, “I’ll look into it and see what I can do.”

Yet, we know that we don’t have time to look into it, and there’s nothing we can do about the problem.

“Sometimes, we agree to help because we want to be accepted,” Swoope said. “Or else we’ve been hearing in the church for years that if someone asks us to walk a mile, then go two miles. Give them your shirt right off your back. We agree to help so we don’t feel guilty.”

Most of us have families and jobs. We may be helping in one or two charities or ministries. We have limited time, money and energy. When we over-commit, we steal from our family — especially in terms of time and energy.

“Then we end up exhausted, drained, angry and resentful,” said David Loar, pastor of Fairlawn-West United Church of Christ. “Generally, we can’t take away people’s pain. We can just be present in their pain.”

But if we make a promise to a hurting person and don’t follow through, that causes even more pain, because there’s a sense of betrayal. People may not like us when we turn them down, but we really hurt them when we don’t deliver on a promise or give them false hope.

Loar said Christians receive their salvation not from what they’ve done, but for what Jesus did on the cross — dying for our sins.

“It’s Christ on the cross, and we shouldn’t put ourselves up there,” he said.

In ministry and churches, there’s the 20/80 rule: It’s 20 percent of the people who do 80 percent of the work.

“We are called to be servants and to help,” Loar said. “One of the sayings is, if you want something done, ask a busy person. They are busy because they do things. But we all need boundaries.”

Sartarelli said if we are constantly rushed, then we don’t develop our relationship with God. That will lead to deeper problems, such as burn-out.

We pay the price at home because we are too tired to deal with those who should mean the most to us. The greatest impact we can make is to take care of our families.

The pastors suggested that we determine where we are the most effective and help people in that area. If you are a good cook and like to feed people, teaching a class may not be a great idea.

If you’re good at teaching, then teach. Let the cooks cook. If you like to work in the background keeping things clean but you struggle in dealing with people, don’t feel guilty.

“As we get older, if we can just mentor and teach one person to become a good servant, then we have done something special,” Loar said. “You can’t help everyone, and you shouldn’t help everyone. But we can help someone.”

Terry Pluto can be reached at Sign up for Terry’s free, weekly e-mail newsletter “Direct from Pluto” at



  1. Kodiak Said:

    I don’t think I have a problem with over commitment. My week is busy working and studying with a little bit of fellowship. I desire to have more fellowship but at this time my schedule just can’t permit it, until I finish my degree(s). But this is only for a time.

  2. Kelly Said:

    I tend to over commit…however saying NO is becomig easier. Now if I could work on my hubby=).

  3. Kodiak Said:

    Good luck with that one Kelly.

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