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Posts tagged ‘saying “no”’

When to Say NO as a Mom

SOURCE:   Jill Savage/Family Life

 

You can’t do everything. Here are nine strategies to help you set some boundaries.

I was supposed to bring dinner to Amanda, a new mother at the church.  On the day the meal was to be delivered, Austin came down with a fever.  I left him at home with his homeschooled sister while I attended a parent-teacher conference for our son Kolya.  Then I dropped off a couple of boxes to be mailed, and stopped by the store to pick up a few things we needed. Once home, Erica needed some help with her schoolwork and Austin just wanted Mom to sit on the couch with him, rub his back, and watch a movie.  When my husband, Mark, came home, I was quite proud that I actually had dinner in the oven, considering the craziness of the day.

When we sat down to eat, Mark’s words stopped me in my tracks, “Jill, this is a great meal.  Is this what you took to Amanda’s family tonight too?”

I choked on the food I had just put in my mouth as I gasped in horror.  In the midst of everything that had happened, I had completely forgotten to take the meal to the new mom!  I was horrified as I pictured them sitting there waiting for me to bring their dinner, which should have been delivered well over an hour ago.

I rushed to the phone and dialed Amanda, apologizing all over the place and offering to order them a pizza that would be delivered to their home.  This sweet young mom was so gracious and reassured me that they had so many leftovers from the other meals brought that they had already warmed up some food and eaten.

I felt like such a failure.  How could I forget something I’d promised to do for someone else?

When I evaluated that incident over the next few days, I came to realize that it had nothing to do with that particular day, but it had everything to do with how much was on my plate in general.  I had enough going on that week that I had no business saying yes to bring a meal.

I needed to set some boundaries, and then I needed to abide by them.

Following Jesus’ example

Jesus said no when His mother and brothers tried to use their relationship to pull Him away from the people He was ministering to (Matthew 12:46-50).  Jesus said no to Peter and the disciples who thought Jesus should be a political king or military warrior rather than a Savior who would go to the cross for us (Matthew 16:23).  He said no to King Herod when he requested a miracle just for the purpose of entertainment (Luke 23:8-9).

Following His example, we know it’s perfectly okay for us to learn to say no as well.  As a mother you can’t do everything people ask you to do.  So here are several suggestions for setting boundaries that will help us follow Jesus’ example:

1. Keep in mind that you know what is best for you and your family.  With many mothers working outside the home, there are fewer school, church, and community volunteers available during the day.  Therefore, you are likely to be asked more often, simply because you are perceived to be more available.  Remember, even with church activities, that our families are our first ministries.

2. Never say yes on the spot.  Always tell them you will call them back after you’ve had time to pray and think about it.  This keeps you from making an on-the-spot decision you may regret later.  You can say no immediately if you know that the position or responsibility is wrong for you.

3. When considering a time commitment, make sure you take into account preparation time.  Most of us underestimate the time it really takes to do a job.  If you have been asked to bake five dozen cookies, look at the calendar and determine whether you truly have that much free time available before the cookies need to be delivered.  If it looks too busy, say you’re sorry, but you can’t do it.

4. Carefully consider the “brain space” this responsibility will require.  Have you ever been listening to your children, but really thinking about a new project or the hundreds of things you need to do?  When your mind is cluttered, you are not mentally available to your family.

5. Remember every minute of your day does not have to be scheduled!  If you have a doer mentality, you will think of a spare hour or two as a way to fit in one more yes.  Yet we need some time to do nothing.  If you need to, schedule in downtime each day.  Write it on your calendar and say no to anything that would fill that time.

6. Ask for accountability.  Ask your husband, a close friend, or your Bible study group to hold you accountable for the number of commitments you will carry.  Be open to their insight.  If you have trouble saying no, ask them to help you during the first few months while you get things back in balance.  When you tell someone you will call him or her back, check with your accountability partner first before answering.  Sort through your schedule with her.  Eventually you won’t need the partner’s help, but it can help you while you are learning to say no.

7. When you do say no, don’t feel that you need to give a long list of excuses.  You know what is best for your family and for yourself.  If you feel you need to give an excuse, simply say that it would not fit into your schedule at this time.

8. Keep in mind that you do not have to say yes simply because you are capable.  You may have strong leadership skills and will most likely be asked to lead most anything you will be involved in.  That doesn’t mean you have to say yes to those responsibilities.  You should say yes only after considering your time availability, other volunteer responsibilities, your family commitments, and what you might need to give up to properly do this job.  Of course, above all, you should say yes only after praying and seeking God’s will.

9. Remember that saying no allows others the opportunity to say yes.  Don’t take service opportunities away from others.  Don’t forget to make time to have a friend over, take your kids to the park, write a letter, or go on a date with your husband.  We don’t usually schedule these kinds of activities, but they are the first to go when we are overcommitted.

Remember that saying yes to some activities outside the home will be important to your sanity.  Moms of young children need to get out of the house to socialize and think about something other than diapers, bottles, and coupons.  Contrary to popular belief, your brain will not turn to mush—it will just feel like it at times.  We need to carefully choose those activities we will be involved in so that our time will be used wisely.  You will be amazed at the patience you will have with your family when you find balance in your activity schedule.


Adapted from Real Moms … Real Jesus ©2009 by Jill Savage. Published by Moody Publishers.

Saying No is Enough — You Don’t Have to Justify It

SOURCE:  Dr. Henry Cloud

Psychologists spend an enormous amount of energy building psychological tests, assessments and the like, and then administering them to people to help them understand themselves. This practice is very helpful in many settings, from work to education, to couples and individuals. Insight into ourselves and others is really helpful for a number of reasons. I believe in good, validated testing.

But one of the best tests for our psychological well-being, the tenor of the family or work culture we live in, and the health of our relationships, is free and can be self-administered. All you have to do is monitor the internal response you have when you want to say the word “no.”

Let’s start with ourselves.

What happens when someone you love, someone you want to please or maybe even someone whose anger or frustration you fear, wants you to do something that you do not want to do? I do not mean the kind of need or desire that will call for sacrifice, effort or even discomfort from us, that we don’t “want to do,” but is something we still choose to do out of love, duty or the desire to help. That is life-giving and good. Great relationships, families, friendships, and businesses are only built when people can get beyond their own self-centeredness and sacrifice for the greater good and others.

The situations I am talking about are the ones where you truly do not want to perform that particular gift of time or energy. It is not something you truly want to give. It is a request to which your real, heartfelt answer, is “no.” What happens inside?

Here is the psychological test: when you know your answer is “no,” do you begin to scramble for a good reason to justify your “no”? Do you have an internal pressure to find a good, acceptable excuse? Like a parent’s note to the principal’s office?

The pressure to “justify” literally means the pressure “to show something to be right.” Think about that. Why does this person have that psychological authority over you, to see if your reason is “right” or “wrong”? Certainly, if a judge orders you to appear in court, she has the authority to do that, and if you are not going to be there, you do have to “justify” your absence, or there are consequences.

But in relationships, there supposedly is no “judge,” but only people who freely give love, time and energy to each other. So how is it that a simple “no, thank you, but I am going to miss that dinner,” can immediately internally marshal emotional resources to “look for a good reason,” to make it a “right” decision? Why do you have to “justify” your “no”? No is a complete sentence in its own right.

So, when you feel that kind of pressure, let that be a psychological or relationship assessment, or test. If the pressure to justify is there, it reveals a lack of freedom in the relationship at some level. Remember, I am NOT saying that we do not often do things that we do not “feel” like doing for the sake of others or a relationship. Sacrifice is key to any good relationship. What I am referring to is the freedom to say “no” to the sacrifices we do not choose to make. While bosses and governments have the authority to require a good excuse, love doesn’t ask for that. Love respects freedom. Love thrives in freedom. Love requires freedom.

In the best relationships, “no” certainly might be questioned, and it might reveal some problem, but usually is not “judged.” There is a big difference. When your “no” feels like it is subject to judgment, and you feel like you need a good “excuse,” let that be a signal that you might have a lack of freedom. Then, take the second step: do something with the test results!

When your doctor gets a test result that shows an issue, he or she has a discussion with you. So, in your relationships, it might be time for a good conversation: “Sometimes, I feel like it is not ok with you if I want to say ‘no’ to sex, or to some event or the way we spend our time or money. I don’t really feel free to say ‘no,’ like I truly have a choice. I want to talk about that to see if that is in my head, or really in our relationship because I want us to have the freedom to say ‘no’ to each other and have that be ok.”

The best families sometimes say things like these: “No, we won’t be there for that holiday this year. We are going to be spending that one at home.” “No, we have made a different choice which school he is going to attend.” “No, I don’t want to do that right now.” And in good relationships, the response is not one that requires some excuse to justify the “no.”

Instead, the response sounds more like: “Oh, really? Where are you guys going this year? Sounds great. We will miss you, but I hope it goes well. I am happy for you!”

Self-centered people say “no” to almost every request that will not feel good to them or will cause some sort of sacrifice. That is not good. When we never say “yes” to someone else’s wishes, there is something wrong in that relationship. But the opposite is just as troublesome: the inability to say “no” or the pressure to “justify” it every time you do. Remember, you are not there to judge each other, but to love each other and build something together. That does not require a “yes” to everything someone wants. But it does require the freedom to decide when to say “yes,” when to say “no” and the mutual respect that brings that freedom.

So, take the test. Monitor how much internal freedom you feel in your most significant relationships. Let the lab results tell you something….you may be in great health! Or, there may be a good discussion to be had with yourself, or someone else, like your kids, spouse, partners, extended family, in-laws or whomever. If they are not in a courtroom, wearing a badge or signing your paycheck, have a discussion about where each of you needs to be free to say, “No, thank you,” as a complete sentence.

How Codependency Sabotages Your Life

SOURCE:  Dr. Henry Cloud

Codependency is something that often needs to be addressed because it can be a huge obstacle in your life, and learning to say no is crucial to removing this obstacle.

Codependency is most simply defined as a tendency to take too much responsibility for the problems of others. While it’s good to care for, help and support people, the codependent crosses a line in the relationship – the line of responsibility. Instead of being responsible to others, the codependent becomes responsible for them. And, unless the other person is your child or someone whose care is entrusted to you, the line of responsibility between the to and the for can become quite blurred. The result is that instead of caring and helping, you begin enabling and rescuing. Enabling and rescuing do not empower anybody. They only increase dependency, entitlement, and irresponsibility. Love builds up strength and character, whereas codependency breaks them down.

Codependency unchecked can take you right off the rails of what you want to achieve in your life, get in the way of goals and sabotage your dreams. And it’s all too easy to be completely unaware of it. This is because while distractions, toxic people and worthy-but-untimely things are outside of you, codependency is within you. Sometimes it’s just too close to see. But it is there, at least in small part, in most of us.

For example, you are late to your night class in the MBA track because a co-worker drops the ball and asks you to work late to bail him out. Or you want to take flying lessons, but your wife doesn’t like to try new things and prefers to stay at home. Since she feels lonely when you are gone, you stay home, which actually ends up being worse for the both of you. Or perhaps you feel guilty for the fact that your efforts at online dating are paying off, while your girlfriends are moping and complaining about their lack of prospects. So you hid your success from them, or even slow down the process.

Most of the time, the problem caters on the unhappiness of the other person. Since we care about them, we don’t want them to be sad, hurt, disappointed or unhappy. And that kind of care is a good thing. However, no one has ever yet made an unhappy person happy. You can’t take the emotions of another person and change them. You can help, love, accept, empathize, advise, challenge, confront and support. But at the end of the day, their feelings belong to them. So you must say no to enabling and rescuing behaviors. Life gets better and people become more successful when they are able to shoulder their own responsibilities.

When you start saying no to your own codependency, however, you will also find yourself saying no to people you have been rescuing. So be ready for some twinges of guilt. You may feel like the bad guy or fear that the other person will think badly of you. These feelings are normal; consider them part of the price of reaching your dreams. Just remember to stay loving and caring while respecting the line of responsibility. The guilty feelings should resolve in time, and you will become a freer person.

Basic Boundaries: When to Say Yes and When to Say No

SOURCE:  Dr. Henry Cloud

Challenge New opportunities and situations can seem risky at first.

Solution Developing a better understanding of how and when to say yes or no will help you get to the next level.

We spend a lot of time talking about the value of the word ‘No’. We say ‘No is a complete sentence.’ We talk about owning your ‘No’. And no doubt, having firm boundaries around what you will and won’t allow to into your life is one of the most powerful shaping forces available to you. But there’s a really important thing that we all must remember as we make these choices — do not allow yourself to become a prisoner to your ‘No’.

Yes is an equally powerful word, and many people are afraid of it. Learning how to say no is an incredibly empowering tool. Most people lack the skill to effectively use it because they mistake being a doormat for being nice. When a person realizes how much power they can wield with the word ‘no’, it can be very tempting to overuse it. People often default to saying no because it protects them from what might or might not hurt them. No is the safer choice. No is the more comfortable choice, and often, no is the right choice. But when we say yes, we are opening ourselves up to new experiences, expanding our limits, and growing our world and the variety of our possible futures.

Knowing when to say yes and when to say no allows you to establish healthy boundaries in your life and it is one of the most necessary traits successful people can develop.

The way that real growth happens is when we stretch ourselves just past our current limits. By defaulting to no, we often shut ourselves out from opportunities to stretch ourselves to the next level. People run the risk of never discovering their full potential because they are afraid to say yes.

A child who doesn’t know how to swim may see a swimming pool and tense up and pull back with fear. This is a powerful and essential survival instinct. However, under the right conditions, with adult supervision or during swim lessons, it’s perfectly safe for a child to go into a swimming pool. It’s fun! When a child has the support necessary to try new things, their fear melts away.

Adults are very much the same. New things scare us. The unknown is rife with potential for doom and failure and everything bad that could possibly happen. And yet, under the right conditions, it’s perfectly safe and hugely beneficial to try new things. It’s essential. Without it, you will fall into a bland rut. Your energy will disappear. Your enthusiasm will vanish. Your intelligence and your heart will suffer for it. You become a closed system.

Saying yes is about being open to new intelligence and new sources of energy, the two ingredients necessary for improving anything. Knowing how and when to say no frees you up to say yes when the conditions are right. That makes ‘no’ even more powerful than we might first realize.

What you let into your life, the flexibility or inflexibility of your boundaries — where they’re set, the quality of your relationships, the honesty of your communication — these are the things that will help you develop and grow. Don’t let your ‘no’ dictate everything. Be the owner of an incredibly powerful ‘yes’.

Use it wisely, but make sure you use it.

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.

Codependency Self-Test

SOURCE:  American Association of Christian Counselors [AACC]

[This test was taken with permission from Breakthrough by Tim Clinton & Pat Springle (2012) Worthy Publishing.]

Indicate your agreement or disagreement with the following statements:

1. I am in a significant relationship with someone who is addicted to a substance or a behavior, someone who is depressed, or someone who is very needy.           Yes___ No___

2. I often feel the weight of responsibility for others’ happiness and well being. Yes___ No___

3. I can’t say “no” without feeling guilty. Yes___ No___

4. I can accurately “read” other people by analyzing their facial expressions and tone of voice. Yes___ No___

5. When I am able to fix others’ problems, I feel strong and valuable. Yes___ No___

6. I feel that I have to protect people, especially the addicted, out-of-control, or depressed person in my life. Yes___ No___

7. I live in such a way that no one can ever say I’m selfish. Yes___ No___

8. I vacillate between defending the irresponsible person and blowing up in anger at him or her. Yes___ No___

9. I often relive situations and conversations to see if I can think of some way I could have done more or spoken better to relieve stress and solve problems.                   Yes___ No___

10. I feel very frightened of angry people. Yes___ No___

11. I am quite offended by personal criticism. Yes___ No___

12. To avoid feeling guilt and shame, I seldom stand up to people who disagree with me. Yes___ No___

13. I tend to see people and situations as “all good” or “all bad.” Yes___ No___

14. Though I try to please people, I often feel isolated and alone. Yes___ No___

15. I trust people too much or not at all. Yes___ No___

16. I often try to get people I love to change their attitudes and behavior.                    Yes___ No___

17. I tend to believe the addicted or depressed person’s promises, even if he or she has broken countless promises before. Yes___ No___

18. Sometimes I have a lot of energy to help people, but sometimes I feel drained, depressed, and ambivalent. Yes___ No___

19. I often give advice, even when it isn’t requested. Yes___ No___

20. I tend to confuse love with pity, and I tend to love those who need me to rescue them from their problems. Yes___ No___

21. I believe I can’t be happy unless others, especially the needy people in my life, are happy. Yes___ No___

22. I am often a victim in strained and broken relationships. Yes___ No___

23. I am looking for somebody who will love me completely and unconditionally. Yes___ No___

24. My thoughts are often consumed with the troubles and needs of the addicted or depressed person in my life. Yes___ No___

Total:     Yes___     No___

—If you answered “yes” to 4 or fewer statements, you probably have relatively healthy boundaries, confidence, and wisdom in relationships. You can care about people without feeling responsible for their choices.

—If you answered “yes” to 5-12 statements, your life is shaped to a significant degree by the demands of needy people in your life. You often feel responsible for the choices others make, and you try too hard to help them make the right ones. You would benefit from the input of a competent counselor or support group.

—If you answered “yes” to 13 or more statements, you have lost your sense of identity, and you are consumed by the problems of addicted or depressed people in your life. You can’t be happy unless you are rescuing irresponsible people from their destructive decisions. In reality, however, your hope for sanity and emotional health is not in that person getting well. You have to take steps to get well whether that person does or not. Find a counselor or support group to help you gain wisdom and strength.

Some common characteristics of codependency include:

  • worry or anxiety
  • “bending over backwards” to take care of others
  • not knowing or not trusting one’s own feelings
  • feeling guilty for “not doing enough”
  • feeling isolated or depressed
  • staying in bad relationships (or sabotaging potentially good ones)
  • trouble with emotional connection and intimacy
  • workaholism
  • sexual problems
  • lack of energy
  • low self-esteem
  • inability to set boundaries
  • perfectionism
  • inability to share (or experience) feelings (emotionally numb)
  • striving for achievement (at any cost)

Wisely Planning “Neglect”

SOURCE:  Randy Alcorn

Planned Neglect: Saying No to Good Things So We Can Say Yes to the Best

I’ve recently been overwhelmed with seemingly endless opportunities to do good things.

I’ve been weighing what to say yes to and what to say no to. Seems like every year of my life I have to say no to more good things. (Young mothers and fathers may relate to this, as those children need a lot of attention, as do your marriages, and there’s no end to the things, both bad and good, that could distract you from either or both.)

Just today I backed out of two things I’d said I thought I could do, months ago when it seemed there would be time for them. I hate to do this, but it’s become clear that I have to be ruthless to carve out time to do what I believe God wants me to, or it’s just not going to happen.

We shouldn’t say yes to something just because it’s a good thing or even a great thing. When saying no to good things, I always remind myself what Nanci and I have learned over many years: I must say no to people concerning the vast majority of good things they invite me to, in order to be available to say yes to God concerning that small number of things He has truly called me to. Sometimes we tend to say yes to too many of the good things, leaving us exhausted and unable to bring our best to those relatively few God-things.

(Of course, some people are not saying yes to the things God calls them to, because they’re saying yes instead to three hours of TV and internet surfing or video games each night. I’m talking now about those who are using their time wisely but are still feeling overwhelmed.)

Whenever we say yes to something, we’ve found that it’s not just the new thing itself, it’s the new contacts, the new networks, and all the new requests that come out of them. We love people, and we enjoy making new friends. And yet, it’s also true that while we’re grateful when God brings us new friends, we are not actively seeking them, because as the years go by we have to work harder just to stay in touch with our old ones.

Sometimes I just have to give up on email, because it’s never-ending. I can’t possibly stay on top of it unless I do nothing else. There are only 168 hours in the week no matter what we do (and during a third of those we should be sleeping!) If we have X number of people to make time for, they have to come out of the same small pie of available time, and pretty soon the slices of the pie get smaller and smaller. You end up having dear friends who no longer get a sliver, because it’s been divided so many times.

As with people, so it is with causes. Rather than a large number of causes that we have tiny little investments in, better to have a much smaller number that you’re wholeheartedly engaged in, giving your very best. Ask God for wisdom as to which these should be, and God will give it (James 1:3). But NEVER say yes without asking whether this is one of those exceptional things God really wants you to do. Tell Him that unless He smacks you in the side of the head and makes it clear, you will assume He DOESN’T want you to do it.

This is planned neglect.

We need to neglect doing the things that countless people want us to do, so that we will be available to do what God wants. And sometimes He speaks in a still small voice, while people speak in a big LOUD voice. We have to make sure we’re listening. To do that, we need to put our ear to His Word and pray and seek His face.

Instead of exhausting ourselves doing many secondary things, may we do a few primary things well. And that begins with our daily time with God. When Mary was sitting at Jesus’ feet soaking Him in, and Martha was mad because Mary wasn’t doing what she wanted, Jesus said to Martha, “only a few things are necessary, really only one; Mary has chosen the better portion, which shall not be taken from her” (Luke 10:42).

So, decide what you are going to neglect this week in order to pay attention to God. And while you do that, seek His wisdom and empowerment in doing those few things He wants you to do.

Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (Ephesians 5:15-17)

Fighting Sin Hurts

SOURCE:  Ed Welch/CCEF

Doesn’t it seem good and right to fight against sin in such a way that it physically hurts? To say “no” when everything inside us wants to say “yes”?

And the last time that happened was . . .

Sin takes different forms such as pride, unbelief and lust. It is lust in particular— reckless desire, covetousness, I WANT!—that hurts when taken to task.

Desires that exceed God’s boundaries exist in every human heart. There is always an I WANT! that stalks us. Sex, gluttony, addictions are common ones. Look for anger and you’ll find it. Search your imagination—I WANT is there.

Now imagine saying “no” to these desires in such a way that you would feel something close to actual pain. It hurts but it’s also good. But let’s not stop there.

Imagine something even better. You say “no” and it hurts—then temptation fights back—and you say “no” again. This puts you among the spiritual elite though it is what we expect in the normal Christian life. Jesus went into the desert and said “no” to the tempter in order to demonstrate his messianic credentials and to succeed where we failed. His success grants us new power to fight as, by faith, we are joined to him.

There is a beauty in saying “no” and using those dormant muscles of self-control. And, because it is the Spirit’s power in you, you don’t become a dour ascetic, but discover hints of contentment and satisfaction. These are marks of the Spirit. And with the Spirit’s power, you have undeniable evidence that you belong to your Father. No mere mortal can persevere in a painful battle with renegade desires.

As Paul discoursed on righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, “That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.” (Acts 24:25)

Righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come. We don’t know what pushed Felix over the edge; it might have been the judgment. We do know that Paul placed self-control among the central features of our human dilemma, and he proclaimed a gospel that offered compelling answers. He argued that self-control was a great gift and was now available to us in Jesus. No doubt he would have emphasized self-control if most of us were sitting next to him too.

Anybody hurting?

If so, no wonder Scripture calls you a holy one, beloved and mighty—you are a delight to your Father.

If so, you have made the power of God known to rulers and authorities in heavenly realms—you are a menace to the Devil.

If so, you are blessed. The battle is worth it.

If so, pray that the rest of us would have that same power.

And tell your story.

Why Are You Afraid To Say, “NO!”

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by Karl Benzio/Stepping Stones/Lighthouse Network

Turn the Other Cheek … or NOT?!

In the past, it was difficult for me to say “no.”

Saying “no” to a request rarely makes the asker feel good. More often, that person feels hurt, rejected, or let down. Our natural tendency is  “going with the flow” or “not making waves.” So we become conflict avoiders … some of us a little, but others of us a lot. You see, a prime contributor to our feelings of discomfort as well as some of our baggage is that other people feel bad as a result of our actions or behaviors.

As Christians, this usually gets amplified because we are called to be “peacekeepers” or “peacemakers.” Forgiveness is a fundamental concept and action of our faith.

Jesus teaches us to turn the other cheek, to love our enemies, and to give our clothes to a thief. Saying “no” seems like a very un-Christian response to someone in need. However, God says “no” many times in the Old Testament. Jesus also said “no” many times as well … to the Pharisees, to Satan, to the demon-possessed man whom he healed, to the rich young ruler who wanted to follow Him but wouldn’t give up his possessions, to the moneychangers in the temple, and to the thief on the cross.

As a psychiatrist and former church elder, I have seen many burnt out Christians, both leaders and church members, who seem to think that more is better … believing it is un-Christian to say “no.” Their efforts become scattered and they always seem to be out of steam. But, like that Energizer bunny, they just keep on doing. Their motivation is not that the Hold Spirit prompts them to say “yes.” It’s that they are too uncomfortable to say “no.” Satan is always trying to trick you into thinking you are selfish, self-centered, or mean if you say “no.” But a loving, caring parent says “no” many times. Just think how many times God answers your prayers with a “no.”

Today, before you jump into or get stuck in the “Christian” trap … by blindly saying “yes” and adding more stress to your plate … spend time with God. Pray that you receive both direction and empowerment consistent with His will. In order to know His will … you gotta spend time in His presence. He has a specific plan and purpose for you. You need to be more purposeful in seeking it with Him and from Him. This is not a job or a task, but rather a beautiful and peaceful privilege.

Also, dig and decipher why you say “yes,” especially when you know you should be saying “no.” Why are you afraid to say “no?” Learning this answer and correcting it will bring an amazing freedom to your interactions with others, God, and life! Saying “Yes” and “No” for the right reasons is your decision, so choose well.

Dear Gracious and Holy God, I know that You designed a path for my life. I pray, Father, that You reveal this pathway to me … and that You give me the strength and courage to follow it. Help me seek Your approval, not the approval of those who make requests of me. Empower me, Father, and let me see that I am powered by You. Let me not focus my efforts on simply doing more, but let me focus on doing what You want and need of me. Help me today, Lord, to do what is within my ability to further Your Kingdom. I pray in the name of the One You sent to forgive, refresh, and empower me, Jesus Christ; – AMEN!

The Truth
You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.  Psalm 16:11

And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.  Mark 6:31

People Pleaser or God Pleaser?

SOURCE:  Stepping Stones/Lighthouse Network

Who doesn’t want to see their kids happy, especially if we are bringing them delight? I love to please my daughters. But I also want to see them safe and healthy. So when they make unhealthy or dysfunctional requests, it is easy for me to say “NO!” even though they aren’t pleased, and in fact, they might actually be upset, or cry because of my answer.

Need a couple of examples? What about when they ask … for their third bowl of ice cream … for the keys to the car and they’re only 13 … to stay out until midnight on a school night when they’re 14 … to camp out with a boyfriend, alone, when they are 16. All these will easily get a “no” answer from me regardless of how displeased my beloved daughters might be with my answer.

When fellow adults make dysfunctional requests, for some reason, for most of us, it is much harder to say “no”.

Why is it hard to say “no” to other adults? Sometimes it’s because I think they know more than I do about the situations … or they know what’s best for themselves more than I do … or I fear and hate being uneasy when people are mad or upset at me … or I fear their rejection … or I need their approval … or I need to be needed or accepted. “I need…” and “I fear…” lenses are based on a me-centered mentality. These distorted lenses significantly interfere with perspective, and lead to disrespectful, dysfunctional, or even sinful relational conduct.

When we focus on trying to please people by acting dysfunctionally, then our behavior is not serving or pleasing God. If we are truly His servants, then our primary goal will be to please God first, not others.

 When Jesus lived on earth, many who believed in Him would not admit their faith. Because these people were more concerned about personal safety and other people’s opinions rather than God’s opinion, they did not live out their faith. Likewise, when we live as people-pleasers, we are demonstrating the fact that we want approval from people instead of from God. Consequently, our walk with Him will always be hindered.

Today, ask yourself, “What is my greatest perceived need or greatest perceived threat when someone makes a request of me … or when I feel the need to people-please in a relationship? Whom am I trying to please … God or that person?” Maybe most of your life is lived to please God, but there are still situations or people that trigger a people-pleasing response in you.

God wants us to put Him first in all things … we cannot please Him by placing more importance on people’s opinions … or our needs … over His.

Pleasing God is your decision, so choose well.

Prayer

Dear Father God, I do want to please You. Forgive me for the times I let my desire to be accepted by a person outweigh my desire to please You. Thank You for Your love and for accepting me unconditionally. Help me to be a better servant, doing the right thing, not the people-pleasing thing, as I grow healthy relationships with others. Give me courage and peace to withstand the pressure I feel when others are displeased with my answers. I pray this and all prayers in the name of the One who was the perfect servant, Jesus Christ;  AMEN!

The Truth

I am not trying to please people. I want to please God. Do you think I am trying to please people? If I were doing that, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Galatians 1:10

Many people did believe in him, however, including some of the Jewish leaders. But they wouldn’t admit it for fear that the Pharisees would expel them from the synagogue. For they loved human praise more than the praise of God.

John 12:42-43

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.

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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