Not My Circus

If you stop by my office, you’ll see a framed copy of this Polish proverb on my wall where I can see it every day:

“Not my circus, not my monkeys.”

I love it for a few reasons. One is that it’s the only Polish proverb I’ve ever heard. And since I’m Polish and proud of it, that’s a big deal.

But the main reason I love it is that it speaks to the heart of one of my greatest strengths, which also happens to be one of my greatest weaknesses–I am a responsible person (responsibility shows up in my Strengthsfinder Top 5) and I tend to be a fixer. Doesn’t matter if it’s my responsibility or my problem to fix. You can bet I’ll try, and I’ll feel pretty crummy when it doesn’t work out the way I think it should.

It’s hard not to take on extra responsibilities, especially at work. It’s not just my job, it’s also my church. And that means a significant personal investment, far beyond what I would devote if I worked somewhere else. I want to do a good job, and I want my church to be a healthy place. As a result, I struggle with wanting to stretch beyond my job description to make everything meet my own personal ideals.

But the church is made up of many people for a reason. We each play an important part, and we don’t all do the same thing. It’s okay for me to let others fulfill their responsibilities, whether I think they’re doing it right or doing it wrong. It’s not my concern how or why they do what they do. And there’s freedom in that.

Romans 12:3–6 says, “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them.”

A friend once told me that when I find myself taking on responsibilities and even frustrations that aren’t mine, I need to resign. So if you listen carefully outside my cube, you may hear me say “I quit.” It’s not because I’m leaving my position, it’s because I’m choosing to lay down what I shouldn’t have picked up. Because God gave someone else the gifting to do it better than me. It’s not my circus. And those aren’t my monkeys.

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