Frankly Put: The Limits of Playing Saviour

Frankhie Muthumbi
5 min readApr 24, 2024

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Photo by Frankhie Muthumbi

I’m threading the needle here. I had danced this line for so long that pulling myself away from it felt like taking oh so many steps backwards. What’s the fascination with only moving forward anyway?

I’m going to attempt to write this out without using buzzwords that are being used to punctuate any semblance of self-actualization. I am sitting here trying to pick at my bones in search of the route taken to get here. From a young age, I found that I have this ability. I could — for lack of better words — speak to people’s souls in a way that they felt seen thus helping them heal through things they struggled with.

It, in all honesty, gave me a high. Made me want to be of service and what that meant, is that I began to chase that dopamine of helping people and going out of my way to find problems that could be solved. I mean, living up to my philosophies, doing what I was good at and doing it well. What no one told me is that this very good that I thought I was doing in a controlled environment, could also turn into an unhealthy obsession. I took the joke of being “an unpaid therapist” and printed it out on a badge that I wore proudly.

The thing about sugar is that it is sweet and very addictive in the way it gives pleasure with its taste. You can only eat so much before the negatives of the addictions start to show as cavities. Even those cavities kind of creep up on you. It almost seems like one day you wake up with a toothache out of nowhere. The sweets were good though, right? That’s what it felt like. It hard to notice the cracks in the dam until it bursts.

Unbeknownst to me, I was carrying this weight of things that were not mine to solve and they were chained to my shadow. A fetter I didn’t catch until my very being started to feel sore. Here is the thing as well, what happens is that the sick will seek out the medicine that worked the first time to soothe whatever ailment that has them in the pits. In two ways, I was going at a loss by being the source of it. Assuming negative energy from others and giving out my peace repetitively to reach into other’s problems.

I would always give the caveat that “I am not a therapist so maybe you should see one,” but it only takes so much practice at something until people too start to see the good in how you do it. Besides, who wants to circumnavigate the complexities of admitting that you need psychological help in an African household, let alone the cost of it when you are not showing signs of “madness.” In such a case, the free and convenient option of a friend is the go it.

The thing about playing hero is once the villain has been conquered, rest can never find you. In your unrest you find yourself searching for things to do, problems to solve maybe even people to save. You start checking out dodgy backways, dingy spots and dark crevices for people “who need saving” or at least you believe they need saving. You start trying to find the good to bring out in people who don’t want to see their own good.

Although, there are limits and you will soon hit them. I think I am lucky enough to have pulled back before this crazed obsession got the better of me. There are limits to how far you can push a car with an engaged handbrake before you damage things. I started to see the warning signs in the form of people who only hit me up when they were having a hard time, always attracting people who required healing and this overwhelming sense of self-righteousness that started to feel wrong. Like, why does it seem like everybody around me is just constantly going through it?

I started to ask myself questions like “Who died and made you Jesus?” which when I say it out loud sounds funny to me but it’s a legitimate question. I didn’t come here to die for the sinners and the sick, at least that doesn’t seem like my vocation when I look inward. In phases, I began to step back from the storm and it wasn’t until I took three steps back that I noticed how drenched I was. How much I was holding for people. How blind I was putting on glasses that saw the good in people and tunnel-visioned into that. I was drowning in my own problems but trying to CPR someone else in theirs.

When I stopped testing these limits, I noticed things. Things like how just like a hospital, I was seen to take in people, heal them and release them; yet maintain this depressing ambience to the experience. Like how suddenly my phone stopped ringing as much when I started asking for space to be created for me just the same. Like how I held on a little too long after because there was a chance that they would come back. Like how I would always play devil’s advocate trying to highlight the good in the whole thing. Like how tired I was; almost too tired to clean up my own things after i cleaned up theirs.

Here is the funny thing, people can in most cases save themselves. Retrospectively, I was doing too much. It creeps up every now and again; such situations, but I think discernment developed over time has helped curb the negatives of trying to help. You can see the good but don’t force them to see it themselves. Don’t put yourself on the line to take them through this metamorphosis.

There are limits to being a saviour, know them enough to not become the very person needing the saving… to put it Frankly.

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Frankhie Muthumbi

Perfectly Imperfect || Human, Alexithymiac Poet, Writer, Musician