As I was on a walk in the woods with my youngest daughter, the path occasionally turned too muddy for her. Naturally, I picked the curly-headed motor up in my arms, carried her for a ways, and then plopped her down to resume her walk. Not only was it natural to me, but for her as well. She wanted to walk as much as she could – and I didn’t want to carry her longer than I had to!
It occurred to me that benevolence, when natural, helps neither too much nor too little. It aims to strike a happy medium in burden bearing. Sometimes it seems like the easy and the most gracious thing to carry someone when they really could be walking. But in reality, it not only harms them (“use it or lose it”), it also excessively weighs down and so harms the helper. Carrying when there should be walking is a lose-lose proposition, aside from being just plain wrong. But alternatively, we must steer clear of a sink-or-swim kind of indifference to others. We cannot justify heartless unconcern for the suffering under the pretence of promoting independence.
The Apostle Paul said it best in the parallel dictums, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. . . For every man shall bear his own burden” (Gal. 6:2, 5). Ah, the challenge of intelligent benevolence!