“Burnout”, Boundaries and saying “No”

Sweet sister, if you’ve ever experienced the heavy weight of “people pleasing” and the burden of saying no; if you’ve ever felt backed into a corner when making decisions, or the guilt or worry of the effects of your decision, this post is for you.

“We fearfully tread over thin ice when met with the potential clash of our own emotions and feelings faced with decisions, dilemmas or difficult people.”

I want to share my experience and victory over the weight of “people pleasing” in a biblical way. Often times as Christians, we confuse the notion “dying to self” and “turning the other cheek” as commands that disregard what our hearts and the Spirit are telling us.  We fearfully tread over thin ice when met with the potential clash of our own emotions/feelings when faced with decisions, dilemmas or difficult people.

This is a heavy topic, feelings and emotions can be an entirely different subject, and so I want to tread lightly here. When we’ve asked the Holy Spirit to enter our hearts, our feelings and our thinking to give us wisdom and clarity in the situation, we can then start to see how saying “no” is not a sin or a point of guilt and condemnation.

  “I used to think that if I said no, I would be letting God down.”

There have been many occasions I have felt pressured to say yes to things, family, friends, work and in serving at church. I used to think that if I declined, that I would be letting the person down and in turn, they would walk away from me, and not be there for me when I needed them.  The response of others became my identity, I used it as a gauge for my worth.  I used to think that saying yes to everything was a barometer for being a good daughter, sister, friend, employee, and girlfriend and that if I said no, I would be letting God down. The more I could accomplish, the more I did, the better I would be for everyone around me. It was more about others and less about God.

Here are 5 things that I learned in my years of tirelessly trying to make others happy. You too can have victory!

  • I let myself down. I went through “burnout”.  This “burnout” led to resentment and dissatisfaction. I was of no benefit when I was exhausted and overwhelmed in my schedule.
  • Giving of yourself, your time and your energy will involve sacrifice and grace, but it also requires intentional and consistent moments of rest.  Jesus required rest. He needed time to meet with the Father. In our walk with the Lord, it’s essential to take time to rest in Him. He is our source of energy and strength.  Rest involves refocusing.
  • Saying no isn’t wrong. Saying no is recognizing the capacity of your heart, your schedule, and your boundaries. The Bible tells us, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23, NIV). I am not responsible for the response or actions of someone when I decline an invitation. Yet, there have been more than a few occasions when saying no provoked responses from family, friends, co-workers or strangers. I want to encourage you today, grace involves sacrifice, so sometimes we are going to have to suck it up and press on. But other times, it’s ok to not take on the guilt and condemnation of another person. They don’t control you, they don’t own you.
  • My guilt was driven by fear of what others thought about me, it was also conflict avoidant.  I couldn’t say no because I was afraid that this person would not love me anymore, that my employer wouldn’t think I was a good worker anymore,  my parents would think I wasn’t a good daughter, that my friends would think I was upset with them.  Fear is a liar. Fear makes people say, think and do things that are unreasonable and unhealthy.
  • Gaining confidence in Christ gives you freedom. His Word penetrates through the brokenness of people pleasing. It repairs and fills in the gaps of the pressure and need to gain validation and affirmation from others. This freedom allows you to move freely in the Spirit and work for unto the Lord and not for men. When you are rested, when you are focused you’ll be better equipped to love and serve others.

In the battle of flesh and Spirit, ask God for peace in your decisions; if you need rest, take it. If you feel peace about something and allowed God to enter the space in your situation to give you wisdom and an answer, you should not allow anyone to make you feel “selfish” for saying no. Saying no is not a question of “disrespect” and “dishonor”, it’s about recognizing your boundaries and understanding priorities.

“As soon as I realized the importance of setting boundaries, I experienced more freedom.

We want to be realistic about our expectations of others and ourselves; we need to be, it sets healthy boundaries, and it guards our heart. As soon as I realized the importance of setting boundaries, I experienced more freedom. It was no longer about what other people thought of me, it was about what I knew I needed to do to experience more of God’s presence and His truth, and in turn, I was able to fully give of my time and effort when I did commit to things.

The past 5-6 years I have learned to release people pleasing; it’s given me so much peace. Rather than focusing on the number of activities scheduled in a given week, I’ve shifted my focus to the quality of relationships, and rest has been a huge part of supporting that quality.

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17, NIV).