Someone reminded me of this passage from Lewis today, and it is such a good cautionary tale!
"Mrs. Fidget very often said that she lived for her family. And it was not untrue. Everyone in the neighbourhood knew it. 'She lives for her family,' they said; 'what a wife and mother!' She did all the washing; true, she did it badly, and they could have afforded to send it out to a laundry, and they frequently begged her not to do it. But she did. There was always a hot lunch for anyone who was at home and always a hot meal at night (even in midsummer). They implored her not to provide this. They protested almost with tears in their eyes (and with truth) that they liked cold meals. It made no difference. She was living for her family. She always sat up to 'welcome' you home if you were out late at night; two or three in the morning, it made no odds; you would always find the frail, pale, weary face awaiting you, like a silent accusation. Which meant of course that you couldn't with any decency go out very often. She was always making things too; being in her own estimation (I'm no judge myself) an excellent amateur dressmaker and a great knitter. And of course, unless you were a heartless brute, you had to wear the things. . . . Mrs. Fidget, as she so often said, would 'work her fingers to the bone' for her family. They couldn't stop her. Nor could they--being decent people--quite sit still and watch her do it. They had to help. Indeed they were always having to help. That is, they did things for her to help her to do things for them which they didn't want done. . . . The Vicar says Mrs. Fidget is now at rest. Let us hope she is. What's quite certain is that her family are."
Lewis interprets this story thus: "[Mrs. Fidget] continued all these practices because if she had dropped them she would have been faced with the fact she was determined not to see; would have known that she was not necessary. That is the first motive. Then too, the very laboriousness of her life silenced her secret doubts as to the quality of her love. The more her feet burned and her back ached, the better, for this pain whispered in her ear 'How much I must love them if I do all this!' That is the second motive. But I think there is a lower depth. The unappreciativeness of the others, those terrible, wounding words--anything will 'wound' a Mrs. Fidget--in which they begged her to send the washing out, enabled her to feel ill-used, therefore, to have a continual grievance, to enjoy the pleasures of resentment. If anyone says he does not know those pleasures, he is a liar or a saint."
C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves
This caricature reviles us, but perhaps in here there is a seed of temptation. Do I make my life harder than it needs to be because I want to feel needed, or feel loving? Do I sometimes hold on to resentment because I want to feel sorry for myself--or want someone else to feel sorry for me? It bears thinking about. Good old Lewis never fails to challenge me at the deepest levels of my heart, and for that I am grateful.