Morning friend,

I am cooking and hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year. How about you? My adult children are also bringing food. My granddaughters will set the table. Everyone helps clean up. I don’t do it all. I don’t want to do it all.

We’re about to enter into a season where sometimes we can get stressed out, tapped out, and overtired doing it all. We’re so busy helping, serving, giving, buying, wrapping, hosting, we don’t even enjoy what we’re doing nor savor the reason for the season. Believe me, I’ve been there. 

I saved this reader’s question for now because I think the answer may give you more space and peace to say no and a good reason why NO is important.

Today’s Question: I love serving and helping people. It makes me feel needed and valued, plus I just like to be a servant to others. What’s wrong with that? Isn’t that what God calls us to do? Serve others without looking for what’s in it for me? Sometimes when I listen to you I feel like there is something wrong with me that I’m not more selfish. Can you help me understand why I shouldn’t serve and give to others?

Answer: I don’t think I’ve ever said that we shouldn’t serve, help, give, and even sacrifice ourselves at times in order to help someone who needs our help. I think those are noble qualities. But let me clarify where I think you may have misunderstood what I teach.

I’m glad you love to serve and help people. I wish there were more people in the world who loved to do that. But are you also free to say no when it’s not good for you to say yes? For example, what if your adult child asked you if he could borrow money from you even though you knew that he had a history of being financially irresponsible? Or, that you didn’t have extra to give? Could you say no? Or would you sacrifice your own financial safety to help him out?

What if your friend expected you to be willing to do her weekly laundry because you were a stay-at-home mom and she worked full time? Would you do it with a good heart even though you had plenty of your own work to accomplish? (This is a true story from someone I knew.) Or would you do it because you were afraid to say no but secretly resented it? Or would you say, “I’m sorry, I have enough of my own laundry to do, I can’t take on yours.” Or maybe, “I am willing to do your laundry if you pay me so that I earn a little extra to help my family budget.”

Next, have you considered that your sacrificial giving and service, in some instances, could actually do more harm than good? Like in the above examples, your “willingness” to help could actually enable your adult child, or your girlfriend to be more self-centered, selfish, and entitled. That is not loving them well. 

There is nothing inherently wrong with helping others unless, in reality, you’re not helping them. You're harming them, even if you don’t see it.

Here’s another example. Sometimes as moms we gladly over-function for our children. We “help” them with their homework by actually doing it for them so they get a better grade. We “help them” get to school on time by driving them when they missed the bus, so they don’t receive detention. We “help” them by gathering up their dirty laundry off their bedroom floor, washing it, folding it, and putting it away so they will have clean clothes to wear to school. 

But if we keep “helping” them do what they should be doing for themselves, we’re actually harming them. We’re keeping them little, dependent, and needing us for their well-being instead of learning to be strong, capable, and independent individuals. That is not good for them. It harms their growth. [Tweet “It may feel better to you to be “needed” but it is not good for them to “need” you to do what they should be doing for themselves.”]

As a new wife, I wanted to serve my husband. Make him happy. Most women do. But if it’s not mutual and reciprocal, over time this pattern soon turns to ministry, a one-sided relationship where one gives and the other takes. This leads to resentment, unhealthy expectations, and misery. A woman who never expresses her own needs, values, goals, or dreams begins to be seen as a helper, a servant, a role, but never as a person to give back to. That’s not good for you, and it’s also not good for your husband. It keeps you both unhealthy and immature.

Although you wonder why you’re not more “selfish” you are doing these things because you are getting something from it. It gives you a sense of purpose, value, and self-esteem to be the hero of other people’s stories. To be the one who sacrifices herself no matter what to save other people from their own mess. But I don’t believe that is God’s call for you. And, staying focused on being the hero and rescuer of other people, keeps you from your own growth and maturity.

Yes, the Bible says to us, “Bear one another’s burdens.” But it also says, “Each one should carry his or her own load” (Galatians 6:1,2). [Tweet “When you carry a load for someone that should be carrying it for themselves, you rob them of the opportunity to be the hero of their own story.”]

If you want to learn more about becoming the hero of your own story, come to my free webinar on December 7th…… leslievernick.com/joinworkshop.

Friend, what did it take for you to wake up and understand that sacrificial giving and helping may not always be doing someone good, including yourself?

6 Comments

  1. Jessica on November 24, 2021 at 10:10 am

    Hi, Leslie! Do you have any advice for me on coping with my frustrations? I get really angry that I have had to suffer so much abuse in lifetime, particularly as a child, and then those people who act so heinous are just always getting away with it. Why does God wait so long to hold people accountable for their sin? I was reading my Bible the other day and read the story of Shappharus and Annais. They lied about how much money they donated to the church and God killed the couple on the spot. Don’t get me wrong, I think what that couple did was not right and they should’ve had consequences for it but it seems very unfair to me that God would make a grave example out of them but then abusers in my life can do things that are just as bad, if not worse, for what feels like the 100,000 time and face no punishment for it. It is difficult for me to reconcile God’s love for me when I feel that actions are not speaking louder than words.

    • R on November 26, 2021 at 11:23 pm

      I know you asked Leslie, not me, but I couldn’t help thinking that Psalm 73 sounds very much like the cry of your own heart.

    • Free on November 27, 2021 at 10:03 am

      Jessica, I think what is bothering you is injustice. We were wired to want justice. That is a normal way to feel. This world is full of injustice and sin.

      I accept that this world is fallen. It is full of heartache, pain and suffering. God allows it here, but it won’t be that way in heaven.

      The solution is to not expect God to create heaven on earth. Satan is active here, as you have seen in those you describe.
      You have no obligation to subject yourself to evil. Remove the fools and evil people from your life and let God deal with them when they get to the pearly gates.

      Having said that, I agree, Yup, bad stuff happens all around us. That is life on this earth.

    • Leslie Vernick on November 28, 2021 at 8:32 pm

      Jessica it does appear wrong and unfair, and God promises to right every wrong with justice, just not this side of eternity. Psalm 73 is a great example of where he almost lost his way being distracted with how unfair it was that the evil one flourished while he was suffering. Pay attention especially to verse 21 and onward. God is concerned with the state of affairs in your own heart even if he doesn’t act as you think he should. He’s there with you and for you, “Yet I still belong to you, you hold me with your right hand.” I’d encourage you to sign up for my free workshop on Dec 7 where i talk about the importance of shifting your own mindset from a victim minset to an owner mindset. http://www.leslievernick.com/joinwebinar or joinworkshop. I can’t recall which one it is.

  2. Free on November 27, 2021 at 10:08 am

    In response to the question of what makes one stop over giving. The derroogatory term “door mat” comes to mind. I’ve not struggled with over giving, but I can recognize it. I think the behavior is root in low self value, grooming, cultural traditions for women and the hope that such behavior would change a particular situation. Education about the popular term, “boundaries” can be very helpful to most who struggle.

  3. Kimberly on December 21, 2021 at 3:05 pm

    I’ve been hearing God’s Word speak to me, train your children in the way they should go…
    I knew I needed to listen to this. I’ve been waking up and holding
    them accountable and training them more. Like not cleaning up and doing their chores. Letting them do what they’re supposed to be doing around the home. Even with my husband, letting him do a little more.

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