This week instead of answering a question, I want to share some thoughts with you about freedom. Today, July 4th is our country’s birthday. As a nation, our founding fathers fought for our freedom.
Our leaders wanted to create an opportunity for every human person to be free to pursue life, liberty, and happiness regardless of class or race. They wanted citizens of this country to be free to worship the God of their choice without fear of persecution and to be free to speak up against injustice and oppression without fear of retribution.
Today, however, our world often defines personal freedom as being entitled to have an unrestricted yes. People say, “I want to be free to do what I want, when I want, and how I want. I want the freedom to say what I want, without censure.” Freedom to these individuals means no rules or restrictions. They want to do whatever they want without anyone stopping them or judging them.
But what if genuine freedom is more about our freedom to say no rather than having an unrestricted yes? What if true freedom is actually the opposite of an unrestricted yes, and that we are never more free then when we have a good and strong no! When we’re free to say no to other people, no to ourselves, and no, even to God.
When God created Adam and Eve and placed them in the Garden, he didn’t put them there as robots, commanded to love and obey him. He gave them the freedom to say no. To disobey and even reject him. God knew that love is only true love when it has the freedom to say no.
Recently I was watching the newest version of Beauty and the Beast with my three granddaughters. They asked me, “Nana, will Beauty fall in love with the Beast? Can she ever love him?”
I told them, “Not as his prisoner she can’t.” I don’t think they were quite old enough to understand, but it’s important that we do. Belle was not free to love the Beast until she was free NOT to love him.
If you recall the story, Belle was taken prisoner by the Beast. Over time the Beast came to treat Belle with kindness, he enjoyed her company, but she was still his prisoner. She was not free to leave.
Belle eventually pleaded with the Beast to be able to leave the castle. She wanted to be free to go find her father. Belle loved her father, not the Beast. But once Belle asked for her freedom, the tension escalated. Did the Beast love Belle enough to let her go? To release her from being under his control as his possession, his prisoner? He struggled to give her the freedom to leave him. But as we know, he did, demonstrating a true love for her.
God loves us enough to let us go if we want to go. He never forces our love or a relationship with him. He knows that forced relationships are not indicative of true love. Click To Tweet
Remember when the rich young ruler asked Jesus what it took to get to Heaven? He kept all the rules. He did everything he knew he was “supposed to do.” Jesus told him, “Give up your riches and come be my follower.” The rich young ruler said no, it was too great a cost. What did Jesus do next? The Bible tells us this: Jesus loved him, and let him go (Mark 10:17-22).
How does this idea of freedom, especially the freedom to say no apply to human relationships? When a baby starts to distinguish herself as a separate person from her mother, one of the first words that comes out of her mouth is “No”. No, I don’t have to eat those peas. No, I don't have to come when you call me, I can run in the opposite direction.” A child’s no, helps her experience herself as a separate person from her mother, a crucial developmental milestone in her maturity.
Granted, this doesn’t mean a parent gives her 2-year-old child an unrestricted no, but a good parent allows her child to exercise her “no” without shame. She validates that her child has a right to make choices. “Oh you don’t like peas, let’s try carrots.” Or, “You don’t want to sit in the stroller right now, okay let’s walk. Hold my hand.”
Many of you have been shamed for your no. Not only by a parent when you were a child, but also by your husband, perhaps by your adult children, and even by your church leaders. You’ve been told or believed that a godly woman doesn’t say no to her husband, even when her heart is broken and her body is being used. That she has no biblical right to her no and it’s disrespectful and unsubmissive. Saying no to others is viewed as selfish or ungodly.
Recently on this blog, we’ve had quite a discussion on a wife’s right to say no to reconciling with her spouse after serious sin. Good points can be made and argued from both sides. One side believes that after someone shows the genuine fruits of repentance, reconciliation should be the biblical outcome. The other side believes once trust has been repeatedly broken, how can one ever know if the fruit of repentance is genuine or will last? Therefore the consequences of serious and repetitive sin in a relationship –including marriage, is broken trust that is not restored. And both sides are perceived as having Biblical support.
The point I want to make here is that God gives individuals the freedom to make those choices. Yes, he gives us his wisdom through the Bible, the Holy Spirit, and others and for most of us, we make the best decision we can based on what we know. In the Disney story, the Beast tried to control Belle and mandate their relationship. That never works. Not in a story, nor in real life. You can’t make someone love you.
Many of you would self-identify as people pleasers. No one has taken your no, you’ve voluntarily surrendered it. You have given up your freedom to say no in order to gain someone’s approval, attention, affection or love. But is it worth it? As you’ve silenced your no, do you experience a more loving and secure relationship with that person? Or are you over functioning to keep them happy and loving you? Are you bending into their will and becoming what they want you to be instead of listening to who God calls you to be and following his will for your life? Are you surrendering your birthright as a child of God for a bowl of stew, a temporary feeling of well-being from another human being?
If so, don't despair. God has come to set the prisoners free. He tells us that the fear of man is a trap, a snare by which we can become captured by this fear of disappointing someone by our no (Proverbs 29:25). But to break free you may need some extra support and help.
I’m opening up spots in my Moving Beyond People Pleasing Class and would love to help you break free of your unrestricted yes and invite you to learn to say a firm yet kind no. Not because you are selfish or ungodly, but because you can’t have healthy relationships with someone without the freedom and ability to say no. Click here to learn more.
Friends, are you free to say no in your relationships and if not, what have been the consequence to you and to your relationships?
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In the past I was always a people pleaser. Always trying to anticipate others needs. An exhausting position and the harder I’d try the more people took. One day I started my first no to h and he pouted and I get shut out. It’s the same treatment I’d get if I did something and he thought I should be doing something else. It took me a while to realize those were his tactics to control me. I’m still a work in progress, but I’ve come a long way from where I was.
Now when I step out of my shell, I’m seen as lazy or when I return from an event happy and bubbling I get verbal challenged about why I’m not happy like that at home. Then I feel frustration setting in because I cannot share about my day.
I’m staying and trying to stay well. I keep praying about my relationship and until I get a clear answer from God, I will stay. I can only think He has me here for a purpose.
Praying for you!
I hope you will surround yourself with supportive women who encourage you in a healthy way. Be careful…sometimes an abusive person escalates their tactics when they stop working. Put on the armour.
Leslie, your writings and insight have changed my life. I am still learning & making changes that will better my life. This article really made me stop & think about a lot of things. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!
Thanks so much Melissa.
Such an important question to really helping many of us identify the health or current status of the relationship.
“Friends, are you free to say no in your relationships and if not, what have been the consequence to you and to your relationships?”
Sometimes the consequences vary in range but it’s important that we can see the cost of our behavior and if over-functioning or silencing our ‘no’ is really loving another well or contributing to the situation.
I found that the real consequence to my relationships that don’t offer this freedom of ‘no’ or space for mutual respect of two parties, is that in reality it isn’t a relationship in the true sense, it is a dynamic that quickly dissolves once the ‘no’ in words or also in actions align by me.
I really think it’s important to evalutate the ‘unrestricted yes’ that you highlighted Leslie. This type of interpretation has caused so much chaos is marriages and relationships in general in my opinion.
A person who sees an ‘unrestricted yes’ as freedom or the healthy version of freedom, will battle any ‘no’. He or she will push back from any limit or disappointment. And certainly they are free to behave this way, but the consequences are often destructive in so many areas where as the relationship is defined by the person who seeks control and how they need the relationship to be in order for them to remain or be comfortable in the relationship.
I have seen a common current flowing about people who see this ‘unrestricted yes’ to be interpreted as God’s grace for accepting and offering full forgiveness ‘unrestricted’ and to take great advantage of.
This isn’t to say that He doesn’t forgive, He indeed does to those who turn back ‘toward Him’.
Many people try to place this kind of overlay onto their significant relationships and especially their spouse as they shouldn’t have any restrictions, boundaries, ‘no’s’ etc., especially if God in essence of grace~ doesn’t have them. But this is being misapplied all the time and a common consequence is this immature thinking and behavior.
Even in the beginning when the world was created, God gave restrictions for our own well-being and especially in His design. We are made in His image, but we are not Him.
I think it’s very important for all of us to do our history and sift through those developmental years, sometimes we find important aspects to any relationship struggles we find ourselves in.
Yes and I think of that verse in Titus 2:12 where it says something like “For the grace of God TEACHES us to say NO to ungodliness, etc……” We definitely need to learn how to say no to ourselves and people today are prisoners of their own yes – and can’t say no to their lustful feelings, their appetites, their wayward thoughts, etc. I will have a newsletter article coming out on more of the consequences of this idea of unrestricted yes this month.
Thank you for this post. It comes at a critical time as I was recently counseled to consider taking down a recent boundery I set up to protect myself from further emotional destruction in my marriage.
I have been struggling, left feeling that I had no freedom to say “no”, but rather was told to concider responding with a “yes”, to my husband in his continual pattern of entitlement and anger, (all for the sake of fairness within the dynamics of the relationship).
I have real and true justified fear for creating this, (hopefuly temporary “no”,) boundary, yet was left feeling guilty over not recieving support from my counselor.
Thank you again for the confirmation, and confidence I needed at this critical time reguarding this topic.
If you were prematurely pressured to remove this boundary you probably felt- anxiety, sadness, and entrapment – plus, like you said ‘guilt’. Ask me how I know. 😞Some Christian counselors LOVE to hurry their clients back into FULL reconciliation. Many are uneducated on the dynamics of abusive relationships and the trauma it causes the victim. They have a one-track mind on keeping the marriage intact.
I think I understand what you are saying here.
“They have a one-track mind on keeping the marriage intact.”
I do think there are many good intentions made by marriage counselors and sometimes they can see this one track or have this concept.
What if your comment was like this or offered up as a suggestion to a counselor or pastoral counselor as this?
“They have a one track mind on keeping a dysfunctional or destructive marriage intact”
I wonder if this would be impacting as it might help them consider what IS the ‘in tact’ I (counselor) am hoping to assist with?
Another thought on the destructive relationship or marriage for that matter;
Imagine a circle, the circle represents the marriage union, and there is a broken space in that circle, I would agree so much advice can be to quickly repair that break and hurry clients back into reconciliation, like you said.
What if a well equipped counselor assists in walking each party ‘backwards’ like taking a step back in order to actually find a closer place but further away from the destructive break.
The more they move back, the close they get to the beginning of the circle so they can eventually be side by side but with a lot of work done on individual sides, then they can walk the circle together (repairing and building a bridge where the broken place is) with the hope to eventually have a full circle, if that’s possible? It’s not always.
When I get up enough courage to say “no,” I am usually criticized as being too uppity, uncooperative, etc. As a result- in anticipation of that response- I find myself saying “yes” when I don’t want to. I take the criticism too personally, I know! I’m working on it!
Sounds like I’m a good candidate for the course, right?!
I remember God whispering to me one night, as I was sitting in my washroom feeling nauseous, knowing full well that I would be expected fulfill my conjugal duties to my emotionally and verbally abusive (entitled) husband.
What He whispered was shockingly unexpected and quite honestly, went against everything the church had always taught me.
God whispered: “You know, you don’t have to do this.”
Wha????!!! Did God just say that?
That was the beginning of my journey towards real freedom, which is really the freedom to say NO. God gives me that freedom. Why is it that other christians feel like they should be able to take that away….it’s becoming more and more clear that i GAVE that freedom away.
I am still learning how important it is to exercise our God given freedom.
Thank you Leslie for this post. So much wisdom in here.
so helpful right now, thank-you for your courageous post
I have been told I do not have the right to say no because of 1 Corinthians 7. Can you please speak to this, I know I am not the only woman at a loss in this view.
“The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”
Jane, I did address this in another blog, if you scroll back to January of this year I had one on sexual abuse in marriage where I talked about this passage. I think you’ll find some answers there.
yes, thank-you. These two scriptures really help.
“love does not dishonor others nor is self-seeking” (1 Corinthians 13:5). And “Do not merely look out for your own interests but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4).
I must say thank-you for all you do, and for your Christ-like character. You empower the one being abused to find who they are supposed to be in Christ and still encourage Christ-like character be extended towards the abuser. Your book and blog has changed my life.
“Friends, are you free to say no in your relationships and if not, what have been the consequence to you and to your relationships?”
Yes, absolutely I can say no in my primary relationship and it is wonderful. Thank God! . . .But that was not that way it was growing up. For decades I could only say yes. Yes, yes and yes. . . .a people pleasing chameleon.
. . .And I have lived a life of people pleasing and am only slowly starting to wake up now, and pursue truth and freedom from that. It is very uncomfortable and awkward when people around me no longer have their expectations met. It never “feels” ok because I am not used to the way living in truth feels. This is new territory. . . .and, sometimes, i.e. beneath my “piety” my hidden vanity begins to show. That needs to be repented of often (Matthew 6:5,16, James 4:6)!
. . .But people pleasing also means “codependent.” . . . Ever since I first existed, I have been doing all the things we label codependent. I have worried myself sick about other people’s thoughts of me. I have said “yes” when I meant “no.” I have bent over backwards avoiding hurting people’s feelings and, in so doing, have hurt myself. I have been afraid to trust my feelings. I have believed lies and then felt betrayed because I was afraid, back then, to ask really hard questions. I have wanted to get even and punish others. I have worn sackcloth because I didn’t believe I deserved silk. . . . .But I have learned that the true measure of a person is not their intelligence or how high they rise in this ridiculous, -freak- establishment world. The true measure of a person is how quickly they can respond to the needs of others and how much of themselves they can give away. Codependence is like . . .like intellectual polarization ―black and white thinking; ―good or bad; ―right or wrong; ―love it or leave it; ―one or ten. It is like codependence does not allow any gray areas ―only extremes. But life is totally messy, confusing and not black and white. Life involves nuanced complexity and the interplay of black and white. In other words, the gray area is where life takes place. I think a big part of any conscious healing process is learning the numbers two through nine ―recognizing that life is not black and white; 1 or 10, etc.
. . .Still, I can’t say no at work without HUGE blowback at lots of levels. . . .Aleea, we need you to go to Munich, to Taipei, to Detroit; Aleea we need you take these cases over immediately because we had this or that person leave. . . .But even at home and in my church, it turns out I am a vast people-pleasing operation (re: I am more concerned with making other people like me than with being holy, etc.) . . . But it even gets worse as I read the article over and over. I also realize I am a Debbie Downer, Negative Nancy and Pessimistic Patty all rolled into one. . . .So, lots to work on: 1) Going deeper with Christ; 2) Stopping the people pleasing; 3) Being more positive. . . . .I am always, a-l-w-a-y-s amazed at how Paul (re: The Amazing Colossal Apostle: Paperback –December 3, 2012) never developed a negative attitude. Makes me wonder if the reports are true (re: Debbie Downer, Negative Nancy and Pessimistic Patty). In city after city, he would pick his bloody body up out of the dirt and go back into the city where he had just almost been stoned to death; been nearly whipped to death, et.al. and he would said, “Hey, about that sermon I didn’t finish preaching —here it is!” . . .No one can gain Christ without having lost all. Self-seeking is the gate by which our souls depart from peace and total abandonment to the will of God, that by which they return. Very easy to say . . .but Christianity is not saying, it is a way of acting in the world. . . .re: Godpleaser vs. peoplepleaser re:Proverbs 14:12, Ephesians 6:6, Galatians 1:10, 1 Thessalonians 4:1, Matthew 6:2, 25:23 and Colossians 3:23.✈🌠😊💬
I can a lot of your points here and how they relate to our ‘yes’ and our ‘no’.
Co-dependency can have many facets to it from what I have tried to understand.
My mom would say she is a ‘people pleaser’ and thinks that is what God would want from her.
Although the crux of the issue isn’t that she always says ‘yes’ to be a people pleaser she chooses to not evaluate WHO she is saying yes to and what motivates that yes.
Her and I have had quite the rupture over this, and she has no problem saying ‘no’ to me.
I’m not asking her to not say no, but to consider what the ‘yes’s’she is more apt to do.
So I guess I have always understood Co-pendency to be doing something for someone else that they can ‘do’ for themselves as a baseline. There are more facets I would think.
But when it comes to ( the yes’s & no’s) I have seen many people pleasers SAY NO to a healthy place and yes to the continued ‘unhealthy place’.
Like my mom, she doesn’t even want to give space to evaluate who is getting her ‘yes’ and could it be a place where she is enabling and contributing to an unhealthy path?
People pleasers in general are not always pleasing people, i believe they say no just as easily at times or say yes and resent their yes…they don’t see the core to it that it’s not always about being liked but about not being disliked.
Who doesn’t want to be liked or accepted, appreciated? Some of this is pretty normal as human beings in community.
But when it’s disproportionate is when we want to take a closer look.
We want to evaluate are we then truly rooted in Christ? and is our identity of being loved by Him assured and confident that being disliked we can weather the discomfort this can naturally bring but we won’t be disproportionate in our responses and adapt our behavior to ‘please’ someone from that place. Is that really a place of offering pure genuine ‘yes’? I don’t think so. It’s not free and it’s coming from a wounded place that only God can do His work in.
When you said, “many say NO to a healthy place and yes to an unhealthy place”… it reminded me of the boundaries book.
I believe that they talk about this in the book as people with either ‘upside down’ boundaries or ‘inside out’ boundaries,,,,the boundaries are inverted…and they recommend counselling for these types of people. Of course..another whole issue is whether a person will even see this as a problem at all.
I believe that both myself and my h had inverted boundaries. ( if I remember, Cloud and Townsend attribute ‘ inverted boundaries’ often to abusive childhoods.) We can’t control our childhoods but we sure can choose health when we get older.
For us, it is only by the grace of God that we were enabled to choose health. It’s only by His grace that we move toward health, each day.
Without that, who knows where we’d be!
Yes I’m sure it’s from boundaries, love those Cloud and Townsend!
“I believe that they talk about this in the book as people with either ‘upside down’ boundaries or ‘inside out’ boundaries,,,,the boundaries are inverted…and they recommend counselling for these types of people. Of course..another whole issue is whether a person will even see this as a problem at all.”
Ok, so I would think that some might see it as a problem… as they are seeing ‘pain or consequences’ grow in places of their lives.
And then there are those that only have denial to fall on.
Sometimes they are not the receivers of the pain or consequences so what would motivate them to counseling?
Yes Nancy when it comes to choosing health, you are correct when you mention the grace of God offers this and enables this healthy choice to grow and transform, but what excuse do those have that have ALSO been invited in and claim to know Christ’s grace? Yet.. still refuse to see a problem even if it’s not their own original complaint but it’s someone else’s complaint about them that might have validity or might not.
Ughhh Aly, I get what you are saying about those who claim Christ and yet still refuse to see a problem… So. painful.
My good friend tells me that I am in a unique position to pray for my mother in a way that others cannot. Because I know her in a way that others don’t, and as her daughter I am spiritually connected to her.
Doing this breaks my heart for her and instantly dissolves my frustration and judgment of her.
This perspective is helpful for my own journey. It keeps me focused on what I can and need to do, instead of what she is, or is not doing.
I’m not assuming that this is what you need to do, your story is different. Just sharing what comes to mind.
Re: “My mom would say she is a ‘people pleaser’ and thinks that is what God would want from her.” . . .I think that is what culture and her upbringing wants from her. God wants her to be a Godpleaser, not a peoplepleaser. I can tell you that early Chrisitians just wanted their lives to glorify God’s Son. They just lived to hear their heavenly Father say “Well done”. Maybe have here read these passages as a unit: re:Proverbs 14:12 + Ephesians 6:6 + Galatians 1:10 + 1 Thessalonians 4:1 + Matthew 6:2, 25:23 and Colossians 3:23.
Re: “Although the crux of the issue isn’t that she always says ‘yes’ to be a people pleaser she chooses to not evaluate WHO she is saying yes to and what motivates that yes.” . . .Aly, I agree that the motive is *really* central. For example, my psyche cannot tolerate a vacuum of love. Good thing God’s love is always constant and not performance based. In the average person in our culture, who has been only “normally” deprived of touch, I see anxiety and an insatiable hunger for posessions replacing the missing love and touch. The child (Aleea) lacking a sense of welcome, joyous belonging, gratuitous security, will learn to hoard the limited supply of affection. And because of the law of psychic compensation, not being held leads to holding on, grasping, addiction, posessiveness. Gradually, things replace people as a source of pleasure and security. When the gift of belonging with is denied, we learn that love means belonging to and that is really messed up. To the degree we are arrested at this stage of development, it is hard to say “no”.
Re: “Her and I have had quite the rupture over this, and she has no problem saying ‘no’ to me . . . .my mom, she doesn’t even want to give space to evaluate who is getting her ‘yes’ and could it be a place where she is enabling and contributing to an unhealthy path?” . . . .I’m so, so sorry Aly. But I know of what you speak***
Re: But when it comes to ( the yes’s & no’s) I have seen many people pleasers SAY NO to a healthy place and yes to the continued ‘unhealthy place’. . . .I never even thought about that being the case but it makes sense and would certainly lead to an unhealthy place.
Re: “We want to evaluate are we then truly rooted in Christ? and is our identity of being loved by Him assured and confident that being disliked we can weather the discomfort this can naturally bring. . . .” . . . .Aly, that’s the answer, for sure, . . . .because then, even if the most important persons in my world reject me, God is still real, and I am still okay. It feels good to be accepted, loved, and approved of by others, but often the membership fee to belong to that club is far too high of a price to pay. ***It was so exhausting, so mentally and emotionally draining with my mother, she seemed to never miss an opportunity to disappoint, manipulate or hurt me.
. . . .But that detachment also involves accepting reality —the facts. It requires us living in God and giving myself the freedom to enjoy life in spite of vast unsolved problems. Trusting that all is well in spite of the conflicts. I trust Christ has ordained, and cares about what is happening. I trust He can do much more to solve the problems than I can. My biggest task is to try to stay out of His way and let Him actually do it. In time, we know that all is well because we see how the strangest (—and even the most painful) things work out for the best and for the benefit of everyone. Oh Aly, it is so, so hard to trust God.
. . .Aly, one particularly harmful idea I see almost everywhere and carried by our cultural narrative is that we need to find someone who will love us. —Aly, imagine if we believed this about any other basic need: food, water, oxygen. If you needed another person to provide you with those, you’d be considered dependent—if not disabled. Yet we so willingly put ourselves in this state with love. . . .But God’s love is always just there like the sun: always and abundant and all we have to do is not block it. —ἁμαρτία (hamartia) in the New Testament is blocking that love by missing the mark. . . .But it isn’t just “I have sinned”, it is the forfeiture of God’s love because I have. *Not* because God withholds love but because our hearts (my heart) are covered with black smudges that keep His love/light out. —So, making conscious and repenting of even little patterns of sin is like unclogging a pipe. We want that pipe to God’s love as clear and clean as possible (—or Lord if I really don’t want that but am just saying that, please change me so that I do really want that, —please!) . . .Change me so I can experience as much of your love as possible. God’s love transforms everything it shines into. The cleaner we keep our hearts, the more of Christ’s love and joy will flow into them. —The cleaning of our hearts (—again, making conscious and repenting of) even little patterns of peoplepleasing and selfpleasing; that missing the mark —sin, equals the forfeiture of God’s love.
Godpleaser vs. peoplepleaser vs. selfpleaser:
νερόείναι ζωντανό —living water coming from within (John 4:10,13-14, John 7:38) We don’t have to get by on the scraps people throw us. The Lord can provide us with three meals a day plus snacks (—I’m obviously talking about the love/ affection/ respect/ et.al. we all need.)
. . .🙏 Lord God help me not to just speak it, but please make it a reality in my life. . . .✞ Help us all be continuously transformed 💟 💜 into the likeness of You (Psalm 17:15) . . . And if we don’t *really* want to be transformed, transform us anyway —just like Paul, —he certainly didn’t want to be transformed (re: The Amazing Colossal Apostle: Paperback –December 3, 2012). Lord God you are the “light of the world” but I am covered in dark, black smudges (—gossip, jealousy, bitterness, resentment, arrested development) and I am in need of Your light and healing-transformation. Lord God, may the darkness be broken into by inescapable light from You (Psalm 18:1-6, Psalm 31). —Our rock, our fortress, our shield, our comfort, our peace, our salvation, our refuge, —our God! Page 5 . . . .
sometimes our yes’s are not because we can not say no to the situation or because we are afraid of disappointing others, but because we can not pass up the opportunity for the attention!
I grew up with a mom who seems very sweet to most on the outside. And parts of her are sweet. Growing up she would say yes to every big project that came with title, authority, or attention; even if this meant abandoning the needs of the family. While others would see being president of the PTA or homeowners association as a way of watching out for her family, it was really a power trip. As a young person, I understood the motivation of her volunteer activities was the pats on the back, attention, and power; but until recently I did not equate this to her narcissism. I am married to a narcissist (diagnosed) and sociopath (diagnosed). Until I started to understand what narcissism was (with roots in insecurity) I would have never said my mom was a narcissist, but after a recent encounter with my sister who is in a similarly abusive relationship (who I only speak with maybe once a year due to schedules), I now know my mom is a narcissist too and I was her negative attention.
Growing up watching my mom say yes to everything for the gratitude and self satisfaction has always made me question my motives for my yes. I am a yes man because I want to help, I love people and don’t want them to hurt, I also get enjoyment from being useful. But recently God has worked in me that not every good thing is mine to do. It may be that God is in that thing, but it is not my assignment, and by me being involved I will mess it up, or even worse, rob someone else of the blessing they would receive if they had the chance to be involved.
I have learned to more carefully listen from God as to where my yes should be in my overall life. Now if I can carefully work this into my marriage, safely, that will be great.
This is a good distinction, Jane.
I think in the case of a Narcissist, it may look like ‘people pleasing’ but like you say it’s about manipulation and power.
This is someone whose motivation is coming from a hardened heart, perhaps.
People pleasing says, “I’m ok, if you are ok” or “I’m ok, if you think well of me”
A narcissist is coming from a different place, I think.
My husband does nice things for people that he feels he may need something from or for his image or for praise. People are deceived by his ‘kindness’. He has expressed his displeasure to me just before he has done a good deed. I have asked him why even bother to do it if he didn’t want to and his answer was he was obligated to- if he didn’t do it what would those around him think.
This is hard for me – as I believe I should have the right to a “no”, but have been 1. Told so many times by DH how obstinant and rebellious I am and 2. Counselor tells me to appeal if I don’t like or think the decision is not wise, etc – but ultimately I must submit (unless it’s sin I’m being asked to do). I feel trapped as a Christian wife.
Submit to who?
What do you mean?
You mentioned your counselor has told you you have to do everything your husband tells you as long as he is not asking you to sin. I think this is his/her interpretation of submitting to your husband. Do you think this is right? Taken to the extreme, this means he would get his way in everything and you would be more or less his slave. Do you think the Bilble condones that? Feeding his selfishness and having no accountability? A relationship is between two people, one person getting is way is not. You will slowly wither and die if you do this.
Often the damage is going to take much longer than you expect to repair. Trust, once broken, is one of the hardest things to get back. If things were bad enough that the children ended up in the system I would wager that both parties need significant help.
(I agree the bipolar, if it was not well controlled on meds, could contribute to the problems in the past, even if you were able to hold a job.. so just be certain this is at max health).
All you can do is work on you, and get the healthiest you can and repair your brokenness. I would work to hear what your wife is looking for but to self evaluate and listen to God’s direction on what your health should look like. Focus on her and let God do the rest. I can not answer the rest of the separation issue, but it sounds like this is a recent work. How long have you two, or at least you, been working on this? Does she have a good counselor too?
should say focus on YOU not focus on her, and let God do the rest.
I hear a lot of anger here. I am sure there is a lot of hurt and I am sorry you and your family are being effected so deeply. I would encourage you to read the heart of domestic violence by Chris Moles if you haven’t already. This may help make your counseling more effective and open your eyes to what the situation is with your wife.
There is such a thing as reactive abuse in which the abused just can’t take it anymore and they act out (still not ok), and then there is a co-abusive relationship, which this one at least sounds like. Maybe she needs better counsel to see her part in all of this. I don’t think you will need to ask her to leave, I believe if you set appropriate boundaries and apply the CORE leslie talks about, that she will likely make that decision on her own. Just be sure you are responsible only for you. Her behavior can not be allowed to define how you respond or how you see yourself.
I wish you the best in this and may God work through all of this to develop you into the Godly man you were meant to be. Keep pushing on and growing, it is a long, hard and painful process but will be worth it in the end.
…I mean, ‘Anything more than that is either controlling, or manipulating her’.
I want to encourage you not to stop, but I also want to put up a couple of red flags. A lot of what I am hearing are things I hear my husband say. I am not sure how there are problems communicating when I clearly tell him NO I do not want him involved in certain things, several times, and yet he still attempts to insert himself in those exact things and then claims it to be a communication issue when really it is either a control issue or him trying to be the hero issue (narcissist). Either way it is not respecting my boundaries and yet he seems genuinely hurt when I enforce the boundaries (which I hear from your posts as well).
You both must set appropriate boundaries. I do not think she has set these to punish you but to protect herself emotionally, you yourself acknowledge you are not emotionally safe to be with yet. There is so so much focus on her right now that I am afraid you are missing out on your own opportunity for growth and freedom from the anger, control and pride that is at the root of abuse. You can be free but it is going to take years of work not weeks or months. You need someone that can hold you accountable as well. Someone that understands abusive behavior. A counselor that specializes in bipolar is not necessarily that person.
I don’t want to say anything weird but I am proud of you for putting yourself in a vulnerable position by posting here and seeking what the women who have been on this side would say. Focus on you and lay your wife down. God is the only one that can help her heal and grow, right where she is, and couples counseling is 100% not a good idea until you are both in a better place, it really is not going to be helpful. Hang in there, get the book and read it with an open heart and open eyes. Try to not focus on your wife while you read it but focus on yourself, in what ways are the things being said by Chris applying to you. If you need help with this, take it to your counselor.
I wish you, your wife and your family the best.
Very well said.
There isn’t a way to have a real friendship with someone who always demands his/her way. The Beauty and the Beast analogy is a good one. If the price of saying no is losing the friendship, it wasn’t really a friendship to begin with.
Well said! So agree with this example because it isn’t a free yes or a free no.
Abusive relationships do not give this freedom.
They want to define the relationship as to fitting to what ‘they need’. Sometimes on a moment by moment basis.
This is exactly what I have been struggling with. I have been taught that as a Christian it is my duty and privilege to die to myself for the glory of God, so when I want to say no to certain people or things I feel such a weight of guilt and shame for being rebellious and selfish. I was in a 10 year marriage where my ex husband kept repeatedly leaving, he fathered 2 children outside the marriage, physically abused me once, I lived in a state of constant fear and the last straw was the physical abuse of my oldest daughter. Since our divorce he will constantly tell me that I am out of God’s will, that he is repentant so I should reconcile so we can bring help to other marriages but I don’t want to go back. But daily I wrestle with feeling like I am going to go to hell because God wants me to fight for my marriage no matter what but I don’t want to do it. So if I choose not to reconcile, am I choosing to disobey God???
I am sorry you have been through so much!! If he is repentant, truly, his life will change and will be an example of God for others, your marriage does not have to be.
You will not go to hell for this, no question. Have you read Leslie’s book, the Emotionally Destructive Marriage? It will answer a lot of your concerns about what the bible says about your situation. God does not want you to live in abuse, He was the original author of freedom when He gave us free will. He is not a bully!
Right now, fight for you, your health, your spiritual wellbeing. What happens later is up to God.
I can’t word it well enough for you so please go read Leslie’s book if you haven’t and make sure you get a good counselor well versed in domestic violence and abuse who is a Christian so that they can answer your fears about your faith (but make sure they know their stuff correctly). Contact Leslie or I have found Chrismoles.org to be a good source for resources and information. Also the book The Heart of Domestic Violence by Chris Moles may give you better insight into your husbands heart problems.