Reader: My pastor says I’m a peacemaker, a good thing. My friends and doctor say I’m a sponge for stress, a bad thing. How could making life easier for others be wrong?
Is physical pain a good thing? It doesn’t feel good, but it does good. It draws our attention to the problem that’s causing it, and motivates us to get it fixed. Without pain, we’d all die of infection.
Stress works the same way in the mental/emotional realm. Carrying stress in a relationship is like being IT in a game of Tag. Unless you can solve the problem, (and many problems you can’t solve), you have to run around exhausting yourself until you can touch somebody else with the awareness that it’s their problem.
Say a man you know has a quick and nasty temper—he gets furious at the drop of a hat. He has a problem, you’d say. Yes, but not if he can get you to feel the tension, to worry about not setting him off. Then it’s your problem, because you’ve taken it on. The feeling of stress is the tag of "IT" on whoever is carrying the problem.
Some people are masters at downloading stress. Maybe they bring it on themselves with self-generated expectations and bogus beliefs of entitlement. But if they can get others to even be silent while they bark out their complaints, they never have to solve their problems, or even realize where they came from. And whatever group or family they’re in will always be awash with distress.
Unless somebody sets a boundary, and says things like, "I’m sorry you feel that way" or "Your anger is not my problem," and walks away without blaming, worrying or stressing themselves. Then the stress stays where it can do some good, at its source.
So who needs stress? The person(s) creating the problem, because otherwise, problems will continue to be carried around by the people who didn’t cause them, and thus can never solve them. Worse still, the people generating the problems and the stress sleep like a baby so they can generate more distress again tomorrow on a full head of steam and a clear conscience.