Can you relate to this?
An acquaintance asked me to not only pick up a meal for her, but then deliver it to her apartment. I was torn. Sure, it would be a nice thing to do. And it would hardly be out of my way.
But if I did it this time, would she expect me to do it again and again?
Wouldn’t it be better to just say no now, and cut off this problem from the start?
It’s logic I’ve heard all my life:
If I do it now, I’ll have to do it always.
I can’t do it always.
So I won’t do it now.
Or maybe this:
If I do it for you, I’ll have to do it for everybody.
I can’t do it for everybody.
So I won’t do it for you.
Is this good practice?
I heard Andy Stanley counter it with this,
Let go of the fallacy of “If you can’t do for everybody, do for no one.”
Instead, “Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone.”
He said quit trying to be fair. Life isn’t fair.
I’ll add, grace isn’t fair either.
Aren’t we glad?
Even though Jesus died for everyone, he knew not all would believe in him. What if he had reasoned, “But if everybody won’t believe, I won’t die for anybody.” There goes our salvation.
Or if he’d reasoned, “If I change the laws of nature this time, she’ll expect it every time.” There goes every miracle.
If grace were fair, there’d be no grace.
So instead of being fair, can we just be loving?
Maybe we can’t do it every time, but can we still do it this time?
Will we do what we can for whom we can, even though we can’t do it for all?
- Water the next-door-neighbor’s flowers, even though we can’t water the whole neighborhood
- Send the sympathy card to the widow we know, even though the obituary page is overflowing
- Buy the Thin Mint cookies from the Girl Scout who asks, even though we can’t buy them from the whole troop
And take the meal to my friend at her apartment. This time. Well, actually, next time (because I didn’t do it the first time after all, just so you know. Someone else volunteered and I said ok.)
We don’t have to do everything.
Let’s just do something.
* * *
Have you used this logic, too? How do you break free from it? Please share in the comments.
revised from the archives
- On the blog – April 2015
- A book on what we get right and wrong on aging and dying