Savior Complex



So many of us do it, we find someone with personal problems that tug on our heart-strings and want so much to fix their problems or protect them from themselves if necessary.  It’s like a “savior complex,” wanting to be the hero for someone else.  However, as noble of an intention as it is, it frequently does more harm than good, especially to the person trying to be the savior.  So much of the time, the root of the problems we are trying to fix stem from that person’s heart, beliefs and habits.  In order to correct the problems or make them a healthier person, physically, mentally or emotionally it may involve changing their heart, their desires, their habits.  Unless that is a change they significantly want for themselves, it’s not reasonable to think that anything you can do could change them.  What usually ends up happening, is the “savior” ends up taking on excessive burdens of the other person’s problems, spinning their wheels and wearing themselves out, often times potentially to their own detriment.  Then the savior is going to need saving!

 In fact, this “savior complex” very well may be such an issue from which to be saved, although most people who have it don’t recognize it right away.  It’s a natural tendency to want to help people, then making it a personal responsibility to help them, and of course if the help is not working it makes room for the “savior” to then start blaming themselves for failing.  Or, they may just think they need to try harder and then grind themselves into the ground trying to fix the situation.  As I listened to one of my favorite radio stations that focuses its message on providing positive and encouraging content, called K-LOVE, one of the radio hosts mentioned a comparison that I felt was a perfect picture of this type of tendency.  They called it, “caring vs. carrying.”  It is one thing to care about someone and do what you can to help within reason, but it is another thing to carry that person’s problems and make them your own responsibility and expectation to fix them.

 It is wonderful to want to help people, but before attempting it, make sure of at least two things first.  1) Make sure the person wants help and is willing to do their part of the work.  2) Make sure it is not going to be detrimental to you and that you are not allowing yourself to be manipulated or used for your good will.  People who are wounded, addicted, self-centered/entitled, etc. can very easily come across as a victim seeking help and use apologies and kind words to get their “savior” to stay around and give them what they want, or what they think they need.  It is a toxic relationship, but one that is easy to fall into for people with caring hearts.  It is important to have a caring heart, but it is just as important to protect your heart and all of yourself by setting healthy boundaries so that you can avoid having your kindness be abused.

Make sure if you want to help someone, and they want your help, that there is a clear understanding of the amount of work expected on both sides.  Make sure there is a clear end point as well.  What is it going to take to keep you around, and if the other party does not keep their part, what are the consequences?  When will you be willing to walk away?  There must be a clear point where you stop being the savior, because it is not your job to be their savior.  You are there to help them for a small part of their journey, but if they need full time help for long term, then they need to go to professional services that offer that kind of help, and of course go to the ultimate savior, Jesus Christ (my belief, of course).  By “carrying” the burden of someone else’s problems, you weigh yourself down potentially to the point of not being able to effectively take care of yourself.  You have plenty of your own problems to address.  If you can handle those and help someone else at the same time for a while, great, but don’t let it get in the way of meeting your own needs.  That kind of burden can negatively affect your mood, your sleep and health, your performance and focus, and your relationships.  Be VERY careful.

Use discernment.  Ask if it would be the wise thing to do considering all the variables in your own life and in theirs.  Set strong and healthy boundaries to protect yourself.  Don’t hold yourself responsible to carry other people’s burdens, but NEVER stop caring.

Care, but don’t carry.  Take care!


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2 thoughts on “Savior Complex

  1. I often find myself falling into this same trap. I care about people very much. Sometimes too much and I take on everything I can if it means it will help them even a little. God created us all. He loves His creation more than we could ever understand. He knew that we would never be able to live up to the plan He had for us. He knew that we would end up in trouble, with problems, hurt, deceived, lost and broken. He knew that there was only one way our situation could be improved. We had to be saved. But how can we be saved by those who are just as in trouble as we are? How can a drowning man save a drowning man? One has to be on dry land. God had to be the one to save us. So He did. But in His plan of creation, He built within us a propensity to be like Him. He wanted us to be like Him. To feel the same things and want the same things. So we are and we do. This is why we want to be a savior. He was our savior and we want to be like him. But this desire is also what got us in trouble in the first place. We share his love for other people and we share his love for good. But it is when we take these desires into our own hands to decipher them that problems arise. When we cut him out of the loop of deciding what is good or what is evil and when we try to save others without looking to Him and realizing only He can save, that is when we just end up hurting ourselves and the one we try to save. We need to be like Him and share His love and care for others without trying to take over for Him. Thank you for helping me to start looking at my own boundaries that will enable me to help others without dragging us both down.

    • Setting personal boundaries and sticking to them is incredibly hard for many people, and often people don’t even think about or attempt to maintain healthy boundaries. It takes conscious effort, thought, time and practice. The art of tactfully saying, “no” is just as important as the willingness to say, “yes.” Choosing to ignore boundaries, be too flexible with them, or not have any altogether can lead to a variety of problems that could be avoided if people would just take the time to evaluate what would be best for everyone, including themselves.