Barrel of monkeys; Balance in an over committed world

They’re in the trees, waiting to jump

When they jump

It’s Friday evening, following a hectic, full, fast paced week, running the business. I need a letdown, to unwind and recharge, catch my breath and find my balance.

As I pull into the driveway, the phone rings. It’s this new builder I’m building a relationship with. I better take this.

“Hi Dan, I’m sorry to be calling this late, but I’ve got this emergency job I need a favor on. It’s a small little thing, but I need you to take a look at it as soon as you can…”

I kick the can down the road til Monday morning, but I already know that Monday is committed and gone, as well as the rest of the week, and most of the next. A holiday will take one of the Mondays, and what about the ones I’ve committed to that are hanging, waiting for me to get to them?

What the monkeys bring

This is the barrel of monkeys, another one always in the trees waiting to jump. You can’t see them, but next thing you know they’re on your back, wanting a piece of the pie, screaming and pulling your hair. They don’t care if you’re burned out, or your needs are met or not. They’re always needy, and carry the responsibility of you solving their problem.

How do they get there?

I co-dependently let them in. My need for approval and acceptance awakens the rescuer within, I put on my superman outfit, or captain america, depending on the role, and add another monkey to the group on my back. You may be Captain Marvel, or Zena or something. The roles remain the same, one carries more bling.

If we are broken, we let everyone put the monkey on our back. With the reputation of being loyal and dependable, we are there to answer the call of too many monkeys. People with needs can tell if you have a monkey shaped saddle on your back, and they are happy to fill it with their monkeys. It’s incredible how many can fit on. I guess as many as our performance & perfectionism will allow.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms give themselves away through our emotions. What I’m feeling, is the giveaway to what’s going on. The feeling is the trigger button that pushes me over the edge. I will feel constrained or compelled, to act a certain way, to cave in and say yes when it should be a no.

I get pushed into an unrealistic estimation of what I can reasonably do, and kick into a performance superman mode. A form of denial is entered into.

“I can handle this. I can make it work.”

Stress & Anxiety

Predictably, stress increases as the monkeys clamor for more and more of my energy, time, and resources. This is magnified if your spouse has taken on too many monkeys. She needs help with hers too. “Husband love your wives even as…” what about serving? The “helpmate thing” whatever that looks like, depending on your beliefs. Come on.

Guilt from expectations & beliefs

Guilt that you “can’t do more, or should be able to…” can keep us tethered to overperforming.


Fear is involved, and needs exposed for us to see it operating. I have found the Holy Spirit more than willing to show me these dynamics when I’m interested in owning them. Fear of abandonment.

What if they abandon me if I say no, and find someone else?

What if I lose the work, and money for security if I offend them?

What if they stop liking me, if I don’t perform?

What can I do to unload these monkeys?

  • Own your problem, rather than blame the monkey, or the one who put it there.
  • Take responsibility for your own brokenness that can’t or won’t say no.
  • Own your fear of man, of disappointing, or letting him or her down by refusing them.
  • Start putting yourself first, when appropriate, instead of others, to gain their approval, or worship.
  • Course adjustments are normal and needed. Restate your core values, and make decisions that reflect those values, even if others disapprove, or don’t like it.
  • Take responsibility to get in touch with your own needs, and meet them in healthy ways, that won’t hurt your life, or your relationships with God and others.
  • Back off your inner tyrant, and extend grace to yourself. Be kind, and let Jesus put His yoke upon you that is easy and light.
  • Be direct, honest, and clear with others about what you can and cannot do.
  • Remember others don’t know how many monkeys you have on your back, unless you tell them.
  • Represent yourself with respect, courage, and love towards others. Sometimes a little clear communication can change everything in a lot of our relationships.
  • Silence the lying tapes of the enemy about yourself and others, remembering people aren’t the enemy, but we are in a warfare. Love wins the battle.
  • If you do these things, you will increase and abound, and you might even survive the journey, salvage some relationships, and even save your marriage. XO

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