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Posts tagged ‘saying “no”’

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.

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