Are You a Christmas Clown?

I was determined to have a peaceful Advent season that was focused on giving and yet didn’t stress me out. Some things had to get put on the back burner. One was the blog. So now that my Christmas tasks are all done, I’m back with a post and a wish for a merry Christmas.

Over the last week I began working again on a book I’m attempting to write based on my “Finding Balance in the Circus of Life” speaking topic. The first part of the book focuses on circus acts we sometimes take on in life. I blogged about the ringmaster a few months ago. Today I thought the clown was most appropriate for this weekend before Christmas, in this season where we turn ourselves upside down and inside out to please everyone. I’d love to hear if this applies to you.

The Clown

What is the role of the circus clown? That’s easy—to make people happy.

Are You Acting the Clown to Make Everyone Happy?

The clown lives only for the happiness of others. And they go to extreme lengths to do so. Remember those clowns at the circus who stuff themselves into mini-cars? They do it simply to bring pleasure to others, to ensure they have a good time. What’s wrong with that? We all love people who make us laugh, who make us happy. And if that’s their main goal in life, all the better for us.

But is my happiness really the responsibility of someone else? Or is the clown in the circus of life taking on a responsibility God never meant for him or her to have?

In our house, we have another name for the clown persona—we call it the cruise director. The cruise director not only plans all the entertainment for the passengers but also handles any problems that arise and affect passenger happiness. Because I am older than some of you (and I’ve never been on a cruise), my cruise director picture comes from 1970s and ’80s TV. Yes, smiling Julie McCoy on The Love Boat, graciously handling complaints and providing experiences to make sure the cruise was memorable for those on board.

Years ago, we took a group from our church on a trip to an Amish grocery story we frequented. The store was an hour away but boasted tremendous bargains that, for my husband and me, made it worth the trip. We had talked it up to the others and they were eager to score some bargains for themselves.

Once we arrived, families grabbed their carts and headed on out. My husband Les is our primary cook, so he makes the majority of the food choices, but I normally shop with him.

Not this day, however. I kept wandering the aisles, homing in on our group members. “How’s it going? Are you finding good bargains? Do they have stuff you want? Are you glad you came?”

Finally, my best friend stopped me.  “Carol, their happiness is not your responsibility. They chose to come along. You are not the cruise director. Now, go back to your cart.” Humbly, I did.

Les and I have now developed a code phrase when I start to get like this: NMP. It stands for Not My Problem. I am not required to make everyone happy, to solve every uncomfortable situation.

The sad part about being a clown is that your own self worth depends on the response of others. You are only valuable, in your own mind, if others respond well to your work, your efforts. If you can make them happy, then you feel fulfilled.

This leaves you at the mercy of the whims of others. Some people will never be happy, no matter how hard you try. But if being a clown is the persona you’ve adopted in life, you will simply keep trying to please them. A woman who remains in an abusive relationship, making excuses for a husband who belittles or batters her and believing she is at fault for not making him happy, is the extreme example of clown thinking.

The truth of a clown’s desperate push to make others happy is that we believe by making them happy, we achieve worth. It’s Sally Field at the Oscars, shouting, “You like me, right now, you like me!” That “right now” is telling—people change and when we base our worth on their opinions of us, we will always be on edge, always doing whatever it takes to make them happy so they continue to like us.

God wants us to find our worth in him. We are his workmanship, Ephesians 2:10 tells us, and he gives glory and honor to us as his creation (Psalm 8:5). There is nothing wrong with doing nice things for others, with wanting to contribute to their happiness, but it cannot be the focus of our lives. Our focus needs to be on living to please God, and then we won’t be ruled by the opinions of others.

Are you ready to give up clowning around?


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An accomplished and flexible speaker, Carol tailors her topics to fit the theme and timeframes of your meeting, conference, seminar or retreat.