“I Can Handle It”


Here is a common scenario (this one is fiction but similar discussions happen regularly):  “My husband may lose his job.  He is so depressed that he can’t do anything around the house or with the kids. The kids must sense something because they are out of control and behaving horribly.  Luckily, we have my job. I don’t want to tell our family or any of my friends. His self-esteem depends on work – he would be so embarrassed. I just have to keep quiet and take care of everything. I can handle it.”  She looks a hundred years old while she is telling this story so anyone might wonder if she can really handle it.

I’ll bet that when you first hear about someone’s trouble at work, school or in their family, and they finish their story with the phrase, “I can take it”, or “I can handle it,” you think that he or she is being strong and capable. And they are; they probably are competent, responsible, caring and all those other good adult qualities.  “I can handle it” is an affliction of the responsible and competent.

I want you to consider another take on, “I can handle it,” and keep this notion in mind before you applaud the phrase.  I believe that there is often a quality of arrogance in the phrase and in the assumption of responsibility. Wait! Keep reading, don’t get angry at me, yet. “I can handle it” may imply a funny kind of arrogance or conceit; not the loud, showy, grandstanding behavior we generally associate with arrogance.  Still, the definition of arrogance is to “claim or to assume.”  I can handle it says the same thing, “I claim this problem,” or “I am capable of shouldering it alone.”

What’s my point?  I have one. In trying to be responsible, competent, caring adults, many people mistakenly claim problems as their own that they ought to be sharing with others.  Maybe those “others” are family members, trusted friends, professionals, clergy, self-help groups, books, or online support. Sure, you can do it; but is that the wisest choice?

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