I don’t know who needs to hear this, but it’s okay to say “No!”
Recently, I listened to the Confessions of a Crappy Christian podcast where Karen Ehman, author of “When Making Others Happy is Making you Miserable” was a guest. She said “we cannot fulfill our divine purpose if we’re too busy living everyone else’s.”
She went on to explain how by picking up projects others can and should do because they aren’t stepping up to do it themselves, we void others of their opportunity to fulfill their purpose while taking it on as our own burden.
By nature, I am a “people pleaser”. In some ways, it has made me really successful in a career in public relations and recruiting. I am usually good at empathizing with others, listening whole heartedly, and finding a solution we can all work towards.
At the same time, as a “people pleaser”, I have a strong tendency to not say “No” to things that aren’t really my speciality, that I don’t have time to dedicate to, or that really aren’t my responsibility because I struggle internally with the fear of letting others down.
What I have come to realize is that by falling into that trap, I not only let others down all the way around, but I also cannot fulfill my true purpose to the best of my ability, thereby also letting God down.
**** Galatians 1:10 ****
For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.
For example, I once had an organization ask me to step up and take on two leadership roles at the same time. They were the type of roles I gladly and successfully took on before I was married, before I was a mother, and before I had recognized I was a workaholic.
Less than a month later, I said yes to a new professional career that involved a lot of travel, while also tackling all the things that come with a new career.
A few months later, the stress of trying to figure out how to accomplish everything I had said “Yes” to that I shouldn’t have taken on led to more bad choices.
I found myself away from home a lot. My marriage suffered. My relationship with my child suffered. My ability to successfully perform in the new roles I had taken on also suffered.
Worst of all, the bystanders of my choices for saying “Yes!” when I should have said “No!” were left to pickup the pieces. They graciously did, but at a cost they weren’t meant to pay. I wish I could say my heart was in the right place when I said “Yes”, but it wasn’t.
My heart was full of pride in the belief that I could do it all, and I never gave thought to the fact that in this particular season of my life I was taking on responsibilities God hadn’t called me to focus on. Before saying “Yes!” I should have reflected and prayed on the decisions.
**** Colossians 3:23 ****
And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.
When I finally I recognized the consequences of my inability to say “No!”, it was ugly.
My husband had to be both mom and dad, while I neglected my family.
My ineffectiveness at fulfilling the new roles I had volunteered to fill for the organization forced others to step up and do the work I had promised to do on top of their own work.
And the new career role I had taken on at the time … well let’s just say, I’m still really not sure how God turned things around there, but He did.
Maybe it’s because about the time I finally realized just how screwed up everything was, God helped me find my way back to Him. In the process, I moved from being someone who “knew” about God to someone who said, “God, ‘I’m all in’ for living my life for You! Help me turn it around.”
**** John 12:43 ****
For they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.
And God did help me.
First, I recognized that God called me to worship Him and Him alone. He helped me recognize I can only do that if I put my people-pleasing days behind me and instead focus on pleasing Him.
Next, He surrounded me with an amazing church family to help me rebuild through a turbulent time that without God at our center, most families wouldn’t have survived.
To those who believe they can worship God alone without a church family, I feel you. I believed it, too. But after experiencing the accountability and love God surrounded me with when I needed it most, I will never again believe it’s okay to be a “Believer without belonging” to a church family.
As He led me back to Him and redeemed the broken pieces of my life, he also helped me realize my season in life was to be an amazing mom and wife. Anything I put before God, my husband, and my child was not where He had called me to be.
Finally, He helped me recognize the aforementioned shortcomings and path of destruction I had left by saying “Yes!” to purposes He had designed for others instead of saying “No!”.
If, like me, you often fall in bed at night too exhausted from all you have taken on, I encourage you to pause for a moment and ask if you’re people-pleasing because of your pride or if you’re doing everything for the Glory of God.
**** Psalm 139:23-24 ****
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.