Not My Job

May 30, 2023 by Colleen C Orchanian

Once upon a time I had the job of Adult Formation Director in my Catholic parish. It was supposed to be a part-time job of 10 hours a week, but I worked a lot more than that. My job responsibilities were directed to managing the activities of faith formation for the adults throughout the year. As time went on in the job, I ended up with many other tasks that were unrelated to adult formation. For example, when a visiting priest locked his keys in the office, I was the one called to unlock the door. When another visiting priest lost the keys to the rectory, I got the call. When something broke somewhere on the property after hours, I was called. I didn’t mind helping because I wanted things to go well in the parish, but I was definitely going beyond my job. A new pastor came to our parish and it became clear to him that I was involved in too many things. He told me to stick to my job and forced me to say no when things were beyond my responsibilities. It was very hard for me to let go of all those other things, but it was very freeing when I finally did. Thank you, Fr. Mario, for reminding me of what was not my job.

That experience came to mind the other day when I was thinking about a particular person in my life that I want to fix. (No – it’s not my husband.) I had a moment of clarity in prayer one day and knew that fixing that person was not my job. I can pray for them. I can encourage their healing. I can serve them prudently without enabling. But I cannot fix them. Fixing is not my job.

That made me wonder about what other things are not my job that I’ve been trying to do, and I found more than a few, like:

  • I cannot save someone’s soul. I can love them. I can serve them. But only God saves them. That’s not my job.

  • I cannot solve someone else’s problems. I want to. I have lots of ideas. But there have been many times I’ve made suggestions and been told why it won’t work. I just assumed they wanted me to solve their problem because they were sharing it with me. In reality, they just wanted someone to listen. That was my job. Solving the problem was theirs.

  • It is not my job to convince someone of a word God gave me for them. I asked my friend Linda for some feedback about an idea for the third book I’m writing. She told me that she had a word from God that the topic was not right and she gave me what she heard from God about the subject of book 3. I got confirmation that she was right. But it wasn’t Linda’s job to convince me to change the subject of book 3. Her only job was to pass on the word she got, which is exactly what she did.

When I try to do things that are not my job, it doesn't work well. It’s like a 3-year-old trying to do something they can’t because their little hands are too small. So what do we do as a parent in that situation? We might try to help and they say, NO NO. I can do it! So we watch and let them try and wait until they say, I need help. Then we step in. God does that with us. He knows we cannot do it, but we insist that we can, and so we keep on trying. When we finally give up, He takes over.

It’s important to know what’s NOT my job. And it’s equally important to know what IS my job. What would that be, you ask?

  • It is my job to pray. I may not be able to fix another person, but I can pray for them. I may not be able to get someone to go to church, but I can pray that they do. I may not be able to solve someone’s problem, but I can pray that God will be with them in their struggle. Prayer is ALWAYS my job.

  • It is also my job to listen to someone who needs to unburden themselves. They aren’t coming to me as the master problem solver. They are coming because they want someone to listen. Many years ago I had a job that I hated. Each day I came home to my husband and complained about it. And each day he told me what I needed to do to fix it. But what I really wanted him to do was to just listen, let me whine about it, and tell me he loved me. I don’t blame him for trying to solve my problem. I did the exact same thing. But the real job is to listen. That is invaluable to a person in distress.

  • Another thing that IS my job is to encourage others in their spiritual journey. Living our faith every day is hard, and the enemy likes to attack us so we don’t grow closer to God. My job – and yours – is to encourage others when they are struggling in their faith. Not with clichés, like God will take care of it, or He won’t give you more than you can handle. They may be true statements, but they aren’t very helpful when you’re struggling. Instead, I might remind the person of a similar time in their journey and how that worked out. I can prompt them to recall how they have experienced God’s movement in their life. I can share the truth about God’s love for them. That’s how I can encourage. That is my job.

  • And my job is to love. Jesus could not have been clearer about this. It is a command. I command you to love one another, Jesus said in John 13:34. It was not a suggestion. It is our job always to love. Not necessarily to FEEL love, but to DO love. I am my brother’s keeper when I love him. I love him by serving him.

  • It is my job to witness to my faith. That’s another thing Jesus commanded – go make disciples of all the world. If I am a person of faith, I am called to share that faith, not to hide it under a bushel. It is absolutely my job to spread the Good News to the people in my life. I cannot be ashamed of the Gospel.

  • It is my job to live a holy life – to obey God’s commands. Jesus calls us to a very high standard. Read the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Read the words where He says, "You have heard it said… but I say…" I might read that and think – "yeah… but God will understand because that’s too hard for me." My job is to be obedient even when it’s hard. Does it even count if I obey only when it suits me? Am I doing my job by being obedient to the teachings of Jesus?

So, that’s a lot of stuff that is definitely my job. And there is plenty that is NOT my job. When I can differentiate between the two, I am less stressed. Imagine the pressure we put on ourselves by trying to solve other’s problems, trying to save their souls, trying to fix someone who is broken, trying to get our kids or grandkids or spouses to church. It’s like beating your head against a wall. When I finally get it that those things are not my job, it’s a relief. I no longer feel like I have failed because I can’t achieve those things anyway. There is so much wasted effort there, and in the process I can damage my relationships because I’m overstepping boundaries.

When Fr. Mario told me to stop doing what wasn’t in my job, I had a sense of panic that things would not get done, but they did. And as I let things go, I found greater peace. That’s what happens when we stop doing someone else’s job. It is very freeing. It frees us up to do what is, in fact, our job. Pray. Love. Listen. Encourage. Witness. Obey.

So with that, here are a couple of questions to bring to prayer.

  1. Is there something I’ve taken responsibility for spiritually that is not my job? Why? What can I do to let go of that responsibility?

  2. What part of my job have I neglected? What is one thing I can do to better fulfill my true job responsibilities as a Christian witness in the world?