What Burdens Are You Carrying?

by PJ McClure on September 17, 2012

I heard a story in church this past week that stuck with me so strongly; I thought it might provide some insight for you in to an issue I see every week with clients.

Two monks were walking along the road when they came to a river. An older woman was sitting on a rock near the river and was obviously distraught. She told them that the bridge had fallen and she wasn’t able to cross the river on her own and needed to reach her family in a village on the other side.

The monks volunteered to carry the woman across and successfully sat her down on the other side. As the monks continued on their way, one looked to the other and said, “Just look at my robes! They’re all muddy and dirty from carrying that woman.”

A few miles later he complained, “I think I hurt something in my leg while carrying her. I can’t believe she couldn’t get herself across the river.”

Five miles from the river he began again, “My back is killing me! I hurt my back carrying her and she didn’t even say ‘thank you’. Isn’t your back hurting too?”

The other monk replied, “No, my back isn’t hurting because I sat her down five miles ago. You, on the other hand, are still carrying her.”

Regardless of the things that happen in life, we have the ability to choose their meaning for us. Victimhood is a choice. Just like the achy monk in our story, we can choose to carry around the things of the past, long after the actual events are gone. Or we can forgive and lay them down so they are not damaging to us long term.

The things we carry forward from events are either resent, guilt, or a combination of the two. Resentment is usually toward others and guilt toward ourselves, but the result is the same; weakness.

I have heard people proclaim that staying angry toward someone who has done you wrong is a source of power and strength. BS. Carrying around resentment toward someone and being unwilling to forgive is like drinking poison, expecting the other person to die.

Guilt is just as damaging because we build self-imposed barriers for ourselves. These limiting beliefs handicap everything we do and make sure that our full expression of life never surfaces. Just like with forgiving someone else, forgiveness toward ourselves is crucial to living free.

In addition, think of how this unresolved resent and guilt robs the people around you of your energy, attention and love. Those you love deserve your full attention and ability. We must learn to forgive.

Here is a video that explains a brief approach for forgiving. It may provide you with a way to get started. I hope you’ll take this call to lay down past burdens and set yourself free.


 Be your best,


Beta Boyz September 17, 2012 at 1:24 pm

Possibly one of your most powerful blog posts that said something applicable to many folks. It’s true that we are responsible for how we choose to manage the experiences of our lives. Every situation provides an opportunity for growth. At the same time, I am concerned that such a story could be used by in Taoist fashion by some people to avoid taking responsibility for their part in the relationship. They can know fully that someone is still struggling with the aftermath of how they treated them. And yet they will say it’s the other person’s choice. Whether follower of Christ or Confucius or both philosophies, accountability for making in depth relationships with others means a willingness to acknowledge how what we say or do impacts others. In today’s society people are so quick to throw people away, when either they don’t measure up or when the colleague or friend challenges their colored viewpoint. Ephesians 4:29 talks about sharing “what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Sometimes wholesome, honest encouragement is having difficult conversations, admitting wrongs and forgiving wrongs because it takes two people for a breakdown to occur, but only 1 to choose spiritual separation from a friend.

PJ McClure September 17, 2012 at 2:00 pm

Thanks for the thoughts. As with anything from analogies to scripture, if someone wants to misuse it, they will. In this context, the post wasn’t intended to portray relationship dynamics as much as it was to highlight the need for forgiveness and the damaging effects of not forgiving. Our impact on each other is indisputable and damaging someone is not to be overlooked.

To that end, if I have sincerely asked for forgiveness for the act and the offended party decides not to forgive, I can still ask forgiveness of God, then forgive myself and move on. We are not obligated to carry an equal portion of guilt in response to the person who refuses to lay down resentment. When we continue in Ephesians with verses 30-32 we see, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

I completely agree that “wholesome, honest encouragement,” “difficult conversations,” “admitting wrongs and forgiving wrongs” are crucial to good relationships, but I don’t agree that it takes two for a breakdown to occur. It only takes the decision or perception of one to cause a riff which leads to the separation you speak of. One person carrying resentment or guilt and being unwilling to lay it down can hinder every move of a friend.

You are 100% accurate in your description of spiritual separation because resentment and guilt and spiritual issues that spread and impact soul and body. Fortunately, with the power of forgiveness, it only takes one person to heal the separation. Thank you so much for taking the time to share.

Sara September 17, 2012 at 9:44 am

You promised me a video to help me with tis issue and I can’t find a link to it anywhere. I’m not sure I can forgive you for this…but otherwise, an excellent message. Thank you.

PJ McClure September 17, 2012 at 10:25 am

Hi Sara! This may help soothe the wounds and allow you to forgive. http://themindsetmaven.com/how-forgive-yourself-others/
Thanks so much for being here!

David September 17, 2012 at 7:30 am


An excellent story, which I have heard before in various forms and still rings true. I have close friend, who, at 64 years old is still choosing to carry the burdens of his childhood. All too often I have found the reason for not letting go is the false belief that in doing so we let the other person off the hook. Fact is, they have gone on with their lives, and we have held ourselves prisoner by mentally remaining in the same spot.

PJ McClure September 17, 2012 at 10:26 am

Great insights David. The holding of grudges and resentment is very often because of what you mention. People think they are holding on for justice, but they are really harming themselves the entire time. Pray for your friend and a change in heart.

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