Beware of Becoming a Sin-Eater

Man goes to doctor. Says he’s depressed. Says life is harsh and cruel. Says he feels all alone in a threatening world. Doctor says, “Treatment is simple. The great clown Pagliacci is in town tonight. Go see him. That should pick you up.” Man bursts into tears.
Says, “But doctor… I am Pagliacci.”
The Watchmen
One of the clearest traits of a Gentleman is his dedication to serving and helping others. He sees his role as the rock others need to stand tall, the wind so others can fly. They are willing to carry the burden of other’s pain, and do so with a calm smile. They are the shelter in the storm; the mast that holds up the sail. And as noble an endeavor as this is, there is always an ever present danger that many around him don’t consider, how much pain he can take in from others, besides his own.

You see, we chose a path that runs dangerously close to a Sin-Eater. For those who don’t know what a Sin-Eater is, this was an old tradition where, during a ceremony, a man would take in the sins committed by someone who was already in their death beds. That left the soon to be deceased free of sin, but it did condemn the Sin-Eater to carry the repercussions of hell. He did this willingly, knowing that he was helping others into heaven, even if it meant damning himself.

As we help others, we learn to hide our own problems rather well either behind a dismissive smile or a stern gaze. After a while we develop a high tolerance to our own pain at the risk of breaking at one point or another. And when we do break, we do so away from others, because we know full well the maelstrom that comes when we stop restraining ourselves.

Some people will start saying that this attitude of hiding our own weakness is part of the gender attitudes of men than need to change. We don’t hide our problems because we are men; we hide them because for us, being there for others, helping others, is more important than being helped. This attitude has no gender. This is the mother who hides from her children all the sacrifices she does, the father that thinks of himself last, always placing his family first, the friend willing to get into trouble for others. How are we supposed to be someone’s rock if they know we can crumble at any moment?

And that is where the danger comes in. How much are we willing to carry before our legs give out? Before we ask for help? Unless you take care of yourself, sooner than later, you will burn yourself out. And at that moment you can’t help anyone else. Learn to listen to the signs. Learn to ask for help. You don’t want to burden those close to you, ask for help from others. Learn to admit that some things are beyond your tolerance and ability to manage. Learn to stretch out you hand when you are down. Asking for help doesn’t make you weak, not doing so does.