When Lack of Margin Makes You a Maniac


I was rushed, with a to-do list ten miles long and not much time to get it all done.

Things had not gone as planned: an unexpected phone call telling me out-of-town guests were arriving early afternoon instead of late evening; a neighbor’s urgent need for help; a work deadline that demanded finishing, groceries to buy, a guest room to clean. It all combined to leave me little margin.

In case you haven’t discovered this little nugget of truth, let me just say it: a person with little margin is a person with little patience.

So when I stopped at the local nursery to buy some last minute flowers to fill in the gap of pansies I’d planted earlier (because can you really have guests in your home when you have—gasp!—an unfinished flower bed lining your front lawn?) it figured they wouldn’t have a single 4” pansy.

On any other day this would not have been a big deal.

This was not any other day.

I took a deep breath and resolved to remain unflustered. Then I called the other nurseries to find the needed flowers.

Only one nursery still had pansies after the long weekend. They had several white and purple ones but merely eight yellow ones—the very color I needed. I drove quickly, bounded out of my SUV and made a beeline to the flowers.

The nursery was empty. Except for one older couple who were clearly just wandering with no particular plan in mind.

And then they stopped.

Right in front of the pansies.

You have got to be kidding me, I thought.

Undeterred, I made my way to the flowers and began quickly plucking up the yellow ones.

I smiled. Just to be nice. Selfishness seems less selfish if you smile, don’t you think?

I laughed as I told the couple how I’d just called to see if the store had pansies since I still needed a few to complete a project I’d already started.

Cute little explanations make selfishness seems less selfish, don’t you think?

Apparently, the woman didn’t find my smile or my cute little explanation cute at all.

“Other people count, too, you know”, she said glancing down at my cart filled with all eight of the remaining yellow pansies.

My heart hit my toes. She was right.

“I’m so very sorry. Please, take some of mine. I was being completely self-focused.”

She didn’t take the pansies. But she did take away my glib little “me-first” attitude.

I paid for the flowers, loaded them into my car, then sat in the drivers seat and cried. I didn’t cry because she wasn’t kind to me; I cried because I wasn’t kind to her. How I behaved wasn’t technically wrong–I had as much right to the pansies as she did. But it wasn’t really right either.

Here’s the truth: When push comes to shove, and my margin is thin, I’m selfish. And impatient. And a host of other qualities I wish I weren’t.

What, you, too?

People without margin always eventually marginalize others. Click To Tweet

A life without margin is no bed of flowers. Not for the person without margin nor the people around her.

You know what I did next? Right after I wiped away my tears? I opened the Bible app on my phone and snuggled close to God. I read and I prayed and I asked Him to help me not marginalize anyone simply because I don’t have margin.

And somewhere in the midst of my praying in a Home Depot parking lot, I realized anew how desperately I need Jesus. And margin.

Something to think about…

  • What do you do when you realize your lack of margin has caused you to marginalize someone else, like your spouse, child, or friend?
  • If you’ve marginalized someone recently, how can you make things right?
  • Is there any area of your life where you need to be intentional about creating more margin in your life? If so, what is it?
  • The one person who never marginalizes you is Jesus. Do you marginalize Him? If so, how can you reconnect with God today?



  1. Alisa Carson

    Talk about right on time. After reading this, I immediately thanked God for speaking to me in my current circumstance and repented and asked Him for forgiveness. Now I need to go to those I have marginalized and ask for their forgiveness.
    I thank God for your ministry.
    Blessings to you.
    Alisa Carson

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