Hello, my name is Shaun Miller, and I am a people pleaser. I always have been – and to a certain extent – will probably always be. It is how I am wired; and while I am learning to cope and work through it, I doubt it is something I will ever kick completely. As a technical director, my role is to serve others through the various media-oriented services the church offers: whether it is creating a video for the weekend, mixing audio for a rehearsal, or burning CDs for missionaries, we are providing a service.
I’d ask for a show of hands, but you’re reading this so that is silly … nevertheless, how many of you struggle with that incredibly awful word, “No?” That terrible two-letter word has the power to tear me apart inside whenever I have to use it. My desire is to help everyone and I really don’t want to disappoint anyone. However, at some point my bandwidth for usefulness runs out, and like a self-fulfilling prophecy, I end up disappointing merely out of failure to follow through. It seems all too common in the church world that we find ourselves surrounded by things constantly pulling at our attention. I personally believe this is a snare the devil can use to lead us to burnout. It is so easy to become angry and finally bitter towards church and even God. I have been there … primarily from my inability to say no. I have done a lot of reading on the subject of saying no since I have been struggling with this for a long time. Henry Cloud’s book Boundaries, which I highly recommend to anyone – especially to us people pleasers – has been tremendous in helping me with remembering my limitations. But recently I have been diving into what the Bible has to say about saying no. How did Jesus set boundaries in his life? I am, after all, trying to model my life after his. In Mark 1, Jesus spent a portion of his day healing people and casting out demons. This was not uncommon for Jesus; he loved people and wanted to help them. What I found interesting, were verses 35-38:”Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.”’I had to wrestle with the fact that Jesus said no to healing people. However, the more I reflected on what he did, I began to find relief in it. I think the last part of verse 38 is what I clinging to the most, “…So I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” Christ came to share the good news of Salvation that would ultimately come through himself. The physical healing Jesus brought to the world was a great thing, but it wasn’t specifically why he came. He had a clear mission, and knew what he had to do to complete it. For me, there is no earthly way to keep track of the times I have sacrificed my real purpose in my position here in the church, chasing after “good” things. The last-minute emergencies of others, the freelance gigs, and simply trying to help, are all things that are good for me to do; but, as with anything, too many good things can become poisonous. I know these things will be different for everyone, so please no nasty letters about the virtues of freelancing. I love it and need it at times for income. I am also not saying to swing the pendulum the other way and turn your back to those in need. As Christians we are all called to do good for others, but we have to guard against enabling others to become complacent by never saying no. You have to judge the impact on your ultimate purpose, just like Christ did. For me, this verse prompted me to create a personal mission statement … just a few sentences describing what I believe God has called me to. As new opportunities come along, I can compare them to this statement and see if they fit my mission. This can make for some hard choices at times, but I would rather finish a project strong then only with the best of intentions. How can you say “no” in order to better pursue your life’s purpose? Maybe it’s finding a volunteer to handle the CD/DVD duplication, or talking to your pastor about all those last-minute changes affecting your family life. Whatever it is, at the end of the day saying no is not un-Christ-like … it is actually an admission of our humanity.
Adapted from a Post on Church Production Magazine.