Share Your Burden, Carry Your Load

We’ve all had it happen. It is mid-morning, and we’re in our office knee deep in a project—then there’s a knock at the door. “Hey, you know that project for the team that’s due tomorrow? I know this is last minute, but I had something come up. While you’re working on it, would you mind…?”

What to do? How do we balance helping others on our team when they need assistance with their responsibilities without becoming overburdened by doing someone else’s work in addition to our own? The answer lies in what the definition of ‘burden’ is.

In ancient times, certain words gave the listener a picture in order to communicate an idea. Many times these words were directly tied to everyday circumstances. Greeks, for example, often used nautical imagery in order to differentiate unique forms of the term ‘burden.’

For example, the word ‘phortion’ (for-tee’-on), or load, relays the imagery of a ship’s cargo or freight. This was an intentional load designed to be carried by the vessel. There is no inference about weight—the idea is a responsibility that is personal and individualized. In other words, it’s something that cannot be shifted to others and must be carried by the individual to whom it was assigned.

The word ‘baros’ (bar’ – os) gives the image of a weight or heaviness, an amount that would sink a ship should it attempt to carry it. These ‘burdens’ are items that are in excess—things that are so massive in their exertion of stress that they will literally crush us if we attempt to carry them ourselves.

Interpersonal conflicts arise when people act as if their phortion are baros, or their baros are phortion. Whether in the office setting, out in the community, or at home, remember that it is everyone’s individual responsibility to carry his/her own load, but we should never be afraid to share our burdens and assist others when appropriate.

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