Galatians 6 is a good chapter to study in connection with this point. There Paul asserts that “each one shall bear his own load” (v.5). The Greek word for “load” means knapsack, or what we carry daily on our journey through life. It is the same “burden” that Jesus spoke of when He said, “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30, KJV). This “load” comprises that responsibility we should shoulder for ourselves.
Our individual knapsacks include such items as our thoughts, attitudes, opinions, beliefs, needs, choices, feelings, values, time, possessions, money, gifts, talents, behavior, and bodies. We are to set limits around these parts of our lives and should protect and maintain them ourselves. It is our responsibility to care for them.
The converse is also true. Just as we are positively to take care of the elements of our lives that are properly within our own boundaries, so we are to refrain from taking care of the things that are inside other persons’ boundaries. If we fail to observe this restraint two negative results are likely to take place:
We will sabotage the spiritual growth of another person (Eph. 4:15) and we will neglect our own God-given responsibilities and become poor stewards of ourselves (Matthew 25:14-30).
In contrast to our knapsacks, Paul describes a different “load” in verse 2 of the same chapter. This Greek term is the word for boulders: heavy, crushing burdens that cannot be borne alone. These are the tragedies, crises, and losses that befall us and that are not our fault. As best we can, we are to help one another with these boulders. Doing so is practically the definition of brotherly love and pleases God greatly.
Thus we see that God wants us to make a clear distinction: to handle boulders differently from knapsacks. Whereas we can only love, but not take responsibility for, someone whose knapsack is giving him problems, it is entirely proper for the Body of Christ to surround the stricken, crushed member with caring and support until he or she can get back on his feet
To summarize: Paul is saying in Galatians that we are fully responsible for ourselves (bearing our knapsacks) but only partially responsible to others (helping them with their boulders when we are able). Put another way, God’s plan for growing up involves taking full responsibility for our lives and helping others in crisis, but we are not responsible for the normal loads of others (i.e., their knapsacks).
We will hurt ourselves and others if we shoulder the wrong load. If we try to pick up their boulders instead of our knapsacks, we will end up denying others their adulthood and prevent them from learning that their actions have consequences. We will make them dependent on us and ourselves codependent with them.
Secrets of Your Family Tree: Healing for adult children of dysfunctional families, Dave Carder, M.A., Dr. Earl Hensun, Dr. John Townsend, Dr. Henry Cloud, Alice Brawand, M.A., pages 171, 172