What is a Burden vs a Load?

Galatians 6:2-5 – Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load.

If someone who is still enmeshed with their family does get married, they bring great stress and anxiety into their new family because they refuse to leave their mother and father. In Galatians 6:2-5, it uses two words to denote two different Greek words in the original text. 

The “burdens” refer to overwhelming circumstances (e.g., a nodal event), and “loads” refer to common circumstances. When a burden happens (e.g., dad is killed by a drunk driver, mom has dementia and can no longer care for herself), then the family needs to come together and help figure out how to keep their new family as a priority while also loving and serving their extended family. These are complicated and emotional times, and a crisis is the most likely time that someone will make an emotional and short-term decision that causes long term pains and problems for their immediate family. 

When a “load” is present, the other family members should not be expected to carry any of that burden because it is the individual person’s alone to carry. A 30-year-old brother who cannot keep a job needs to figure that out for himself, parents who have a bad marriage should not allow their children in the middle and need to get the help they need and take responsibility for their own marriage covenant with God, and a foolish adult daughter who keeps dating losers cannot expect her family to be chasing her from bar to bar on weekends. At some point, to live your life, you have to let someone else live their life because there is a big difference between caring for them and carrying them. 

For example, let’s say that there is a family of four children, and the mother and father do not have a loving and healthy marriage. When mom and dad are together, they bring an anxious presence to the home rather than a joyful, non-anxious presence. The children have learned through pain that, eventually, mom and dad will have tension that escalates as their marriage is like a simmering volcano capable of spilling over or erupting at any time. 

As the tension increases between mom and dad, one of the kids chooses flight and removes themselves from the anxious environment, or tries to ignore it. 

One of the children chooses fight, and takes mom’s side publicly as they have been talking/gossiping privately about dad, forming their triangle, and building a case against him. 

This causes another one of the children to sense dad’s anxiety of being isolated, and so that child also chooses fight but takes dad’s side, triangling with him. 

The remaining child, perhaps the middle child, absorbs stress from all sides in this situation and wants to somehow be the caregiver who transfers the burdens of other family members onto themselves, hoping to bring peace and get the family back together again. 

In most families, the caregiver is the least emotionally mature, most enmeshed, and unable to launch as a healthy independent adult because they are overly focused on saving their birth family rather than starting their new family with marriage and children. 

If you are married, enmeshed with your birth family, and in an unhealthy triangle with a relative, you cannot have a healthy marriage. Why? 

Because you have not left your birth family to start your new family. You cannot cleave unless you leave. Until you do, your spouse and children, will feel neglected or even rejected. This will cause triangles to form in your immediate family and repeat the exact same dysfunction in the next generation as you are not helping but multiplying your broken family system. 

The directness of this lesson may be difficult for some to receive, but the reason I am being clear and forthright is because there is likely a blindness that has existed for much of your life that needs to be healed. This can become a generational oppression or even curse that one generation passes to the next until someone sees it and pivots into a different family system. 

What burdens do you have that you can ask others to help with? What loads do you have that you need to carry on your own?

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