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Posts tagged ‘people-pleasing’

True Guilt and False Guilt — What’s the Difference?

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

What’s The Difference Between True Guilt and False Guilt?

Question: How do I discern true guilt from false guilt? I want to please God and serve others for Him, but I don’t want to give in to manipulators, either in my family or my friends.

Answer:   If a manipulator can make you feel guilty for saying no, he or she is much more likely to be successful in getting you to back down. Their strategy is to make you feel as if you are doing something wrong or you are being selfish when you won’t do what he or she wants. A manipulator’s thinking is simple. He believes, “If you love me, then you’ll always do what I want.” Therefore, if you say no, then you must not love me or you are selfish.

A two-year-old uses this tactic on his mother to get her to buy them something while standing in line at the grocery store. Most mothers are wise enough not to be manipulated by these tantrums. We know that a firm “no” to our child is the most loving thing we can do. The same is true for other relationships. Saying no to manipulation is actually taking a stand against someone else’s sin. This is a good thing.

However, when the manipulator is not our child, but our mother or husband or adult child, it’s much harder not to get sucked into his or her drama. It doesn’t help that they often accuse us of being unloving and selfish because we are not giving into their demands, and consequently, we’re tempted to feel guilty.

So what’s the way out? Let’s first look at Jesus. He never sinned, never was selfish yet he did say, “no.” He didn’t always do what people expected or wanted him to do. Jesus took time out for friendship, rest, relaxation, and prayer (Mark 6:30-31,46). When you feel guilty because you’ve said no to someone, take a moment to read Mark 1:29-39.

In this passage, we learn that Jesus went to Simon Peter’s house for a relaxing dinner, but people brought the sick to Jesus and the whole town gathered at the door. Can you imagine the pressure Jesus felt with everyone pressing in on him to do something? That evening he healed many people, but he eventually said no more and went to sleep. Those who were left behind unhealed must have felt disappointed.

While it was still dark, Jesus woke up and went off by himself to pray. Peter eventually came looking for him. “Jesus, where have you been? Everyone back home is waiting for you.” Jesus answered Peter saying, “I’m not going back to your house. Let’s go somewhere else – to the nearby villages – so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.”

Jesus knew he could not do everything everyone wanted him to do and still do what God wanted him to do. During that quiet time of prayer, Jesus asked the Father to help him discern between the good things and the best things. Just like we do, Jesus had to make some hard choices – to please God or to please others. He chose pleasing God. This priority regularly cost him the disapproval and disappointment of others, including his disciples, religious leaders, and his own family (see Matthew 26:8; Mark 3:21-22).

To break free from the guilt trip, we must all learn to distinguish between true guilt and false guilt. True guilt is a God-given warning signal that we are violating God’s moral law. False guilt arises when we or another human being judges our actions, ideas, or feelings as wrong, even if there is nothing sinful about them.

So next time you’re struggling with guilt, do these three things.

  1. Go to God’s word for clarity. Am I breaking God’s moral law or is it some other human being’s law such as “Thou shall never say no to me”?
  2. Invite the Holy Spirit to search you and see if there is any wicked way in you (Psalm 139:23-24). You may find you have more guilt over feeling angry and resentful that you said “yes” when you wanted to say “no” than you would have if you had just said “no” in the first place.
  3. Ask yourself this question. If I say “yes,” am I saying, “yes” because I want to or because God asks me to? Or do I feel I pressured to say “yes” because I’m afraid to say “no”?

Remember, you are a finite, limited human being. When you say “yes” to something, you also always say “no” to something else.

When you repeatedly say “yes” to a manipulator, keep in mind that you are also saying “no” to your own needs, to perhaps your children’s needs, or to the greater good of what God wants for you. When you accept that you can’t always make everyone happy with you, (Jesus couldn’t either) then the false guilt will dissipate.

Q&A: Setting Boundaries With an Adult Daughter

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Question: My adult daughter has moved back home after making a mess out of her life. I think I’ve enabled her to be too dependent on me and now she is acting like an angry teenager instead of a responsible adult. What can I do to help her?

Answer: I hear this so often. Well-meaning parents have crippled their children by not teaching them how to stand on their own two feet. My definition of a good parent is that you work yourself out of your job. In other words, your kids don’t need you in order to function anymore. With that said, you can’t change your daughter. But you can identify and own your problem.

What is that? You have given too much. You’ve been too nice and that may be one reason she is not taking responsibility for her own life. Unfortunately, this kind of unhealthy relationship fosters a love/hate relationship between you and your child. She loves you and is dependent on you and hates you for always being right and having to “need” you.

To change this dynamic, you will need to figure out why you have been overindulgent with your child for so long. Are you afraid to say no? Are you anxious that if she doesn’t need you, she won’t have a relationship with you? Do you pity her and believe she can’t do it without you? This is an important step so that you don’t revert back to rescuing her when things get hard for her.

Second, you need to evaluate what is in her best interest. I know you love your child, but godly love acts in the beloved’s best interests, not just what feels good. I’m sure you didn’t give your child candy for breakfast, lunch and dinner, even if she screamed for it because you know that wasn’t good for her. It is the same principle here. To change things, you will have to say no to her requests for help, not to be mean, but because it is good for her to learn to figure out some things for herself.

Third, you need to let her know how you are changing. I talk about this in section two of my book, The Emotionally Destructive Relationship in detail.

Let me give you a sample speak up dialogue that you may want to share or write to your daughter.

I love you. You are my child and nothing will ever change my love for you. But I realize now that I haven’t always given you what you needed most. I have given you lots of things, probably too much, but I have not given you the confidence that you can manage your life just fine without me. I fear you have grown too dependent on me to solve your problems, to rescue you from your financial woes, and to provide your living space, when at this age, you should be doing these things on your own.

I will take responsibility for my part. I now see that by giving in to you, I didn’t help you grow up. I know you are in a tight spot right now and have moved back home but I want you to know that this is only a temporary solution. I expect you to get a job, work hard and save money toward moving out on your own. You will need to pay room and board while you’re here so that you learn that you have to be responsible for your bills and your life.

I want to have a good relationship with you, and we will not have one if I treat you like a child and you behave as one. I want us to respect and care for each other as adults.

If you haven’t done step 1 and 2 first, it will be hard for you to stick with your resolve. Make a plan as to how you will respond when she cries, complains, criticizes you, or doesn’t pay her room and board. Remember, you can’t make her be responsible or mature at this point in her life. That is her job. However, you can create an atmosphere where it is more likely that she will make those choices.

Trying TOO HARD to Help Another?

SOURCE:  Living Free

“We must keep our eyes on Jesus, who leads us and makes our faith complete.” Hebrews 12:2 CEV

Thoughts for Today
Are you caught up in a loved one’s life-controlling problem? Do you try to control his or her behavior?

Are you dependent on being in the helping role?

Do you work to cover up and make excuses for a loved one’s poor behavior?

Are you realizing that all areas of your life revolve around serving the needs of this loved one?

If you see yourself in any of these unhealthy behaviors, or if you feel you might be in danger of sliding into any of them, you need to begin the process of moving toward a healthier relationship with your loved one.

Consider this … 
The behaviors described above are symptoms of codependency. Avoiding or overcoming codependency requires balance. God doesn’t want our lives to be centered around our loved one’s problems, but neither should we be independent and concerned only with ourselves. The healthy balance is to be interdependent.

You can find a healthy balance in your relationships by making Christ and His will central. Love others. Care about them. Be concerned about what is happening in their lives. But rather than entwining your life with their life-controlling problems, serve Christ and focus on Him.

Prayer …
Father, I know I have a tendency to get so wrapped up in trying to protect my loved one from his own behaviors that I take my eyes off you. Help me focus on Jesus and find the right balance in this relationship. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from …

Concerned Persons: Because We Need Each Other by Jimmy Ray Lee, D.Min. This group is designed for the many people who have a current or past relationship with a person who has a life-controlling problem.

Managing What Others Think of Me

Source:  Jan Johnson

Impression Management Versus Authenticity

 When I joined a group a few years ago and it was time for introductions, I stayed within the allowed three minutes and managed not to engage in my old game of “impression management.”  For me that means:  Say something that will make everyone laugh! or Say something so deep or authentic-sounding that people will be impressed!  It was difficult because I was used to doing my best to manage the impression of myself that other people walked away with.

Impression management is about using words, possessions and time allocation to convince others I am more or different than what I really am. It’s scary on several levels.  It means I want others’ approval so much that I can’t just be myself.  It isn’t OK to be who I am. It means that I can’t trust God to do whatever is appropriate concerning my reputation.  I must “help God out.” It creates bondage as we become enslaved to cramped schedules and others’ expectations. To be all things to all people means we have to squeeze in another appointment or errand. This seems like no big deal, except that we’re so rushed and distracted that our true authentic self of love and truth doesn’t have space to show up. Worry over our inability to do all this creates anxiety and fear.

Trying to manage what you think of me is a form of insincerity, even duplicity: what you see (impression) is not what you get when you know the real me. We are misleading people to think we are more clever, more witty or more spiritual than we are. Then we have to live up to that or risk disappointing them. At times, impression management is about trying too hard to be sincere because our simple speech is not enough. At its worst, it’s about exploiting opportunities and people so we can get what we want from them. Such a life is exhausting because we’re working against what is real and we’re not truly loving people (but only using them). It lacks the tranquility and authenticity of simplicity of life. In fact, that’s one way we can tell when we’re doing it:  I’m losing a sense of peace within. What am I up to?

So these days I’m finding that speaking simply (to “let  my ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and my ‘no’ be ‘no’,” Matt 5:37) without impression management is easier.  We build relationships more naturally because we can simply be and transparent without posturing. We are the same person in every situation. We always act in character, never working behind a mask. It’s easier to love others because we no longer try to manage them with convincing words to get them do what we want them to do.

People also find us easier to be around when we live in simplicity and authenticity of speech. They don’t have to guess what we’re really like or what we’re really thinking because we are refreshingly absent of pretense or affectation. The real me has the chance to connect with the real you. I want to keep moving forward to be content to be my unadorned self—the authentic self who does not need to impress anyone, but who also continues to experiment with trusting God more in all situations.


©Jan Johnson — The above is excerpted and adapted from chapter 4 of Abundant Simplicity

Jesus Set Boundaries

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by Bill Gaultiere

Many Christians feel guilty setting boundaries. In the early years of my ministry I had this problem. It seems selfish or not nice to say no to people with hurts and needs. The best response I have for this – and any problem for that matter! – is to look at Jesus.

If Jesus accepted his personal limitations and set boundaries in his helping then surely it’s good for you and I to learn to do the same! Jesus shows us that indeed there are two words for love: “yes” and “no.” With practice and coaching and prayer you too can learn to set holy and healthy boundaries.

Jesus, in his Incarnation, had Limits that he Accepted

  • Basic Needs. He ate healthy foods, got the sleep he needed and even took naps, took time to relax, and did a lot of walking (Matt 4:6-7; 26:18, 20; John 12:2)
  • Support from Friends. He sought the company of friends (Matt 26:36-38)
  • Solitude. He withdrew from the crowds to go away on retreat, alone or with friends
  • Singular Focus (This people, this place, this time). He left one city to go to another because he couldn’t be in two places at the same time (Mark 1:38)
  • Pace of Life. He was never in a hurry, except to go to Jerusalem and embrace his cross (John 11:6; Mark 10:32)

Jesus Said No to Inappropriate Behavior

  • Demands. He withdrew from the crowds who wanted him, for 1:1 time with the Father (Luke 5:15-16)
  • Abuse. He fought his way through the crowd that was trying to throw him off a cliff for claiming to be the Messiah  (Luke 4:28-30)
  • Entitlement. He didn’t give in to his mother and brothers who tried to use their relationship with him to pull him away from the crowd he was ministering to (Matthew 12:46-50)
  • Baiting Questions. When the religious leaders asked him baiting questions to make him look foolish he answered with incisive questions of his own (Matthew 21:23-27, 22:15-22)
  • Cynicism. He said no to Herod’s mocking demand of “Show us a sign that you are the Son of God.” (Luke 23:8-9)
  • Manipulation. He said no to Peter and the disciples who had an inappropriate agenda for Jesus to a political king or military warrior rather than a sacrificial lamb. (Matthew 16:23)
  • Pride. He didn’t heal those who were too proud to trust Him (Matthew 13:58).

Jesus Spoke the Truth in Love to those Stuck or Wrong

  • Exploitation. He used a whip to clear out the temple of the vendors and money changers who were taking advantage of the poor and turning God’s house into a marketplace (Matthew 21:12-17, John 2:12-16)
  • Addiction. He told the Rich Young Ruler that he couldn’t help him until he gave away the money that was controlling him (Matthew 19:16-21).
  • Misguided. He rebuked the disciples who tried to keep the little children away from him and told them that they needed to emulate the children’s faith (Matthew 19:13-15).

Jesus Had Expectations for People in Need

  • What do you want? Two blind men called out to him for help from the Jericho road.  He asked them, “What do you want me to do for you?”  They needed to ask for what they needed and they needed to trust Him. (Matthew 20:29-34)
  • Do you want to get well? For 38 years the invalid at the Sheep gate pool hadn’t been able to get into the miracle waters.  He felt helpless and sorry for himself.  He expected someone to fix his problem.  Jesus challenged him, “Do you want to get well?… Get up!  Pick up your mat and walk.” It was up to him to be motivated and to take responsibility for himself.  (John 5:1-14)
  • Do you believe? A father sought deliverance for his son who was mute and had seizures and said to Jesus, “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”  Jesus put it back on the father, “`If you can’?  Everything is possible for him who believes.”  The father needed to believe that Jesus could cure his son. (Mark 9:17-27)

Jesus Offered Grace and Truth as Needed (John 8:1-11)

  • The humble and broken. To the woman caught in adultery he offered grace (“Neither do I condemn you.”) and truth (“Go and sin no more.”).
  • The proud and self-righteous. To the Pharisees who tried to condemn this woman and to trap Jesus he listened (grace) and then confronted their pride and scapegoating with the truth (“Let him who is without sin throw the first stone.”)

Jesus Taught Boundary Setting

  • Personal Prayer Time: “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen” (Matthew 6:6).
  • Be Honest: “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one” (Matthew 5:37).
  • Set Priorities: “No servant can serve two masters.  Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other” (Luke 16:13).
  • Please God, Not People: “How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?” (John 5:44).
  • Obey God: “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’  ’I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.  Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go. Which of the two did what his father wanted?” “’The first,’ they answered” (Matthew 21:28-31).

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