Focus on the Family Broadcast

Living For an Audience of One (Part 2 of 2)

Living For an Audience of One (Part 2 of 2)

Karen Ehman’s journey as a recovering people-pleaser began when she realized she was seeking others’ approval more than God’s. In this conversation, Karen shares practical guidance on healthy boundaries and encourages you to serve God intentionally in the areas he’s called you to serve.
Original Air Date: September 30, 2022


Karen Ehman: I had someone say to me one time when I was in my busiest season of people pleasing and just running around and doing everything, and I was exhausted. It’s an exhausting way to live. I was processing w- with her and kind of venting and she said, “You know, this is gonna sound trite, but Karen, we are human beings, not human doings.”

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Jim Daly: Mm-hmm.

Karen: “And I think you kind of got that mixed up. You are equating your worth by how much you’re doing, by how much you’re helping people.”

John Fuller: That’s Karen Ehman and she joins us again today on Focus on the Family for an ongoing conversation about the topic of people pleasing. Thanks for being with us today. I’m John Fuller and your host is Focus President and author, Jim Daly.

Jim: John, is there anything I can do for you?

John: I appreciate that, Jim. I’m good at the moment.

Jim: I’m being a people pleaser (laughs).

John: (laughs)

Jim: Uh, last time we talked about how easy it is to fall into those patterns of people pleasing. We think it’s God honoring, to a degree, and, and we move in that direction, thinking, “Okay, we’re doing what we need to do as Christians.” But some of this is unhealthy and you’ve got to know those boundaries and set those boundaries. And believe me, there are people around you in your life that will take as much pleasing as you’ll give them.

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: And today, we want to equip you to just manage that a bit better and be healthier in those relationships. In the book of Galatians, uh, Paul writes, “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings or of God?” That’s a good starting place-

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: to ask yourself when you’re in a, a situation like that. People pleasing affects all of us in some aspect of life, and I’m looking forward to covering those practical insights today with Karen.

John: Yeah.

Jim: And, uh, I just wanna get right to it, John.

John: Okay. Well, we’ll be brief here. She’s a speaker with Proverbs 31 Ministries and a bestselling author, and Karen Ehman has a book about this topic. It’s called When Making Other Happy Is Making You Miserable: How to Break the Pattern of People Pleasing and Confidently Live Your Life. You can get a copy from Focus on the Family when you call 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY, or stop by

Jim: Karen, welcome back.

Karen: Thanks so much for having me back.

Jim: I’m laughing a bit, because I’m turning the words on your, on your title, and I think it, it is instructive either way. Yours is When Making Other Happy Is Making You Miserable. I’m probably the type of guy that says, “When making others miserable is making you happy (laughs).”

Karen: Are you gonna write the follow-up book?

Jim: I could, I could get a little joy out of that. What’s my problem (laughs)?

John: There’s a book there, Karen. Write it so we can invite you back.

Jim: Yeah, just reverse it.

Karen: There you go. I’ll, I’ll write the foreword for you.

Jim: (laughs)

Karen: How’s that?

Jim: That sounds good. Now, let’s jump into this idea of, uh, when making others happy is making you miserable. Digital boundaries. You have a chapter in there on digital boundaries and what that means. Uh, I try to deploy digital boundaries for my teenagers, but tell me more about how we need, need to apply them for ourselves.

Karen: Yeah, people pleasing was hard enough in the days before we had cellphones, but now just think of the many ways people can contact you and put something on your plate.

Jim: Yeah.

Karen: You know, back in the day if I called you and you had a landline and you didn’t pick up, the burden was on me to keep trying to call you until I got you. Everything’s reversed now. People can send you a text message, they can send you a private message on social media, leave you a voicemail saying, “Hey, get me this link, do this for me.” All… And it’s like, I feel, that I’m sitting down making my to-do list the old-fashioned way, I use a Ticonderoga No. 2 pencil and a legal pad, right?

Jim: A Ticonderoga?

Karen: Yeah, they’re the best.

John: (laughs)

Jim: Wow.

Karen: And it’s like someone comes up and they grab that pencil out my hand and they’re putting things on my to-do list that I never asked for, never gave them approval for-

Jim: Huh.

Karen: all because it’s coming through my phone.

Jim: That’s interesting. Do I have a problem? Because what frustrates me is when I call somebody’s cellphone and it says their voicemail box isn’t set up yet. Who hasn’t done that-

John: Or-

Jim: so I can leave a message so they can respond to me?

John: Yeah (laughs).

Karen: A smart person hasn’t done that (laughs).

Jim: No kidding. I wish I would have thought of that.

John: It, it does leave the ball back in your court though, right?

Jim: It does. It does to your point-

Karen: It does.

John: So you can do the, uh, request.

Karen: Now it makes me wanna take out my outgoing message there.

Jim: Yeah, you should do that (laughs).

Karen: Yeah.

Jim: It’s really good. You can’t leave a message. That’s good. Um, your friend taught you that it’s possible to have a thriving friendship, even with consistent boundaries. I guess the one question there is, why do we think you can’t have a thriving friendship with boundaries? I mean, boundaries are healthy. That’s why we have fences around our houses (laughs).

Karen: Right, right, right, yeah.

Jim: Fences make good neighbors.

Karen: That… I’ve heard that several times before, but we somehow don’t translate that into our relationships, and we just think we need to be at their beck and call and say yes, all the time and do everything. And it’s, it’s not healthy. But yeah, the, the incident you’re talking about, I was at my friend’s house once and her cellphone went off. And I thought it was very strange that she didn’t at least touch it and look at it, if not answer it. But she just let it roll over to voicemail, and she and I were visiting. We weren’t doing anything, you know, super important. We were just visiting, having a cup of coffee. And I said to her, “Aren’t you gonna get that? And, um, it’s fine. I mean, we’re just sitting here having coffee.” And she said, “Oh, no.” She said, “I’ll just let it roll to vo- roll to voicemail.” And she said, um, “I return all my calls after dinner.” And I thought, “What (laughs)? You can do that? Like, that’s a thing?”

Jim: Yeah.

Karen: ‘Cause it never occurred to me. I always felt like when that phone buzzed and beeped, I had to, to touch it and I had to respond to that person.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Karen: I’ve gotten so much better now, that, that actually now I look at people that are always tethered to their phone and, and I wanna say to them, “You don’t have to do that. Like, you can wait and return your calls at night.”

John: Yeah. Yeah, there’s a frenetic activity. It’s very Pavlovian and, “There’s something there, I’ve got to respond to it.” And it’s really good to step back and say, “No, I’ve got a boundary here for that.”

Jim: That’s good (laughs). You had an incident. I think it was online in a digital context, where a stranger was pinging you to get a recipe that you… Or something.

Karen: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Jim: So, what, what happened?

Karen: The corn chowder. You’re talking about the corn chowder.

Jim: Corn chowder. I love corn chowder.

Karen: Yes.

Jim: Can you give me that recipe?

Karen: Um, not right now.

Jim: (laughs)

Karen: I have a boundary. I don’t do that right now.

Jim: Yeah.

Karen: No, so I guess it’s an unwritten rule. I didn’t understand fully when social media became a part of my life that if you ever post anything that you’ve made, you have to give the recipe. I didn’t know that. It’s not really a rule, but people think it is. And so, one day I was making corn chowder for the football team, and I don’t know, I just posted a picture of them all sitting around eating it and saying, “You know, Mama Karen’s corn chowder once again hits the spot.” I don’t know, something like that, and I thought that was the end of it. And then, when I went to do something else on my computer, you know, you get distracted, ’cause you see, “Oh, there’s so many messages on Facebook or whatever I need to respond to.” So I went to Facebook, and someone had left a comment saying, “Uh, recipe please. Don’t you know if you mention food, you have to give the recipe?” Well, I ignored it. I had a busy day. I didn’t have time to sit down and type a recipe. 45 minutes later, they messaged again. Two hours later, they messaged again, but this time privately like, “Hey, I’ve left a comment on your post already two times. I need that recipe. I’d like to make it for my husband.” And I’m like, “This person’s private messaging, like, telling me to get with the program and give the recipe?”

Jim: And you don’t even know this person?

Karen: Don’t even know them. Oh, it gets better. So, I ignored it. I was learning about this people pleasing. I’m like, “I’m gonna ignore it. I’m just gonna walk away. In a couple days, maybe I’ll answer her.” And then her husband sent me a private message and said, “Mrs. Ehman, my wife has kindly asked for this recipe three times today. Would you please give it to her?” I was steaming mad. I was like, “Are you kidding me right now?” I would never do that to someone.

Jim: (laughs)

Karen: So, I waited about a week and then I answered both of them and just said, “Hey, guys. So thankful you wanted my recipe. I’m very honored at that, but it was- came on a busy day, didn’t have time. But I’m actually gonna do something on my blog this fall about my favorite top five recipes. It’s in there, so watch for that.” Never heard from them again. They were probably ticked off, ’cause, you know-

Jim: And he’s never eaten again (laughs).

Karen: He probably, he probably wasted away to nothing.

Jim: That’s why he was emailing you like, “Hey, help me. I’m, I’m starving.”

John: It’s dinner tonight.

Karen: But it’s-

Jim: But that actually is a good, that’s a good example of my forthcoming book, When Making Others Miserable Is Making You Happy.

Karen: (laughs)

Jim: That’s exactly the example I needed.

John: We’re gonna see a bunch of food postings from Jim Daly with no recipes whatsoever.

Jim: I’m not answering that at all.

Karen: But you know what it is, you guys? It’s this illusion that people think that you are constantly sitting at your device waiting to respond to them. Maybe they are someone who is constantly tethered to their phone-

John: Mm-hmm.

Karen: and they think you are, too. And when you don’t respond right away, they get ticked off. But we’ve gotten this aura about us that we’re always accessible at every time because we have cellphones.

Jim: Okay. So, how do we loosen that addiction with our phones, if the person listening or viewing right now goes, “Oh, I’m kind of like that woman that was emailing”?

Karen: Right.

Jim: Okay, that’s… First, it’s great acknowledgement of a weakness. But secondly, what do they do?

Karen: Right. Well, someone said to me once this phrase. It’s not unique to the person that said it to me, but I’ve heard it many places. And it’s this, that you teach people how to treat you. And you do.

Jim: Huh.

Karen: With your phone, like, think of it.

John: Huh.

Karen: Right now if I said I was gonna give you 100 bucks if you could pick up your phone and text someone that you know immediately they will text you back, like within 90 seconds you’ll get a response, I’ll give you 100 bucks, you both could think of who you would text.

Jim: Uh-huh.

Karen: That would immediately… That person has, has taught you how to treat them. You can-

Jim: Do you wanna do this?

Karen: No, I don’t (laughs)-

Jim: Oh, oh.

Karen: ’cause I don’t have 100 bucks.

Jim: I, I… You had me right there. I was ready to go.

John: 100 bucks (laughs).

Karen: No, but if on the flip side I said, “Okay, now think of somebody that if you texted them, you might not hear back for two or three days.”

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Karen: You know, would… Those, both of those people, they have taught you how to treat them.

Jim: Wow. Interesting. That is good.

Karen: And so, if you’re someone that, um, feels like you’re really too tethered to your phone, you, you know, you need to re- realize that you’re teaching other people, you’re sending out a digital resume showing people what to expect from you, and maybe you need to dial it back a little bit.

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: Let me ask you in terms of boundaries themselves, ’cause a lot of this is boundary setting.

Karen: Mm-hmm.

Jim: Um, is that important? What about the person with no boundaries? They’re going, “What are you talking about?” Um, speak to the no boundary person.

Karen: Wow.

Jim: And they’re probably overwhelmed, I would think.

Karen: They probably are. And also, not only do they get overwhelmed because they have no boundaries, but experts say it’s, it’s rewiring our brains. Like, we can’t sit and focus. We’re al- always toggling and, and bouncing back and forth from our phone to th- this message to scroll, scroll, look at things-

Jim: This is making way too much sense now.

Karen: Yeah.

Jim: I’m scared (laughs).

Karen: And yeah, and, and we’re just… It’s, it’s… We’re living in that constant frenzy of, like, uh, in a slot machine. Where’s the next thing? Where’s the next thing? Maybe the next thing will be good. The next message, the next whatever. Sometimes we just need to shut our phones off, like, for an entire weekend. I know that sounds really drastic, but I-

Jim: That’d be fun to do actually.

Karen: I have done that.

Jim: I’ve not done that.

Karen: I have done that, and I’ve told people, “If it’s an emergency-

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Karen: you know where I live.”

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Karen: Or my husband is gone for the weekend, he doesn’t have his phone off. You know, or I will put it on Do Not Disturb and I will say the only calls I’m allowing is from my husband. So, if there’s an emergency, get ahold of him. It’s freeing. It… I… It makes me feel like I have my life back.

Jim: Huh.

Karen: You know, because you’re not just constantly checking, checking, checking.

Jim: Uh, you were walking with, I think, multiple friends as they went through difficult divorces. Uh, when did you realize that your help was actually hurting them? This is really interesting. It’s, uh, kind of an inverted observation that you made, which I really appreciate.

Karen: Yeah, I had some friends that were going through some really tough times. I have divorce in my background, being the child of a divorce, and my heart tugged for them and for their children and I wanted to be helpful, and I wanted to be encouraging and, and point them to the Lord. But unfortunately, I didn’t have any boundaries in place when it came to my phone, and I was constantly getting phone calls and messages from them around the clock. There were three different people that were going through the- these terrible, unwanted divorces.

Jim: Uh-huh.

Karen: And I felt like the right and good and Christian thing to do would be to pick up the phone and to let them vent and to let them, you know, process with me the latest development in the scenario-

Jim: But you’re talking about three different friends?

Karen: Three different friends.

John: Hmm.

Jim: That’s a lot of venting.

Karen: Yes. And I finally realized that it was detrimental to me, because, you know, I was, I was homeschooling my kids at the time and there were so many times I would just leave them to do their thing, ’cause I had to go get the phone. And that wasn’t good for my family, to not have any boundaries in place. And then I also realized later that because I was allowing them, I had taught them how to treat me and I was allowing them to just run to me every time that there was something new that happened that had upset them. I was preventing them from running to God.

Jim: Now, in that context, I, I need to say, ’cause I… Jean would say, “Yep, I do that, too.” There’s a certain, um, I, I think, self-worth that might come from that, for the people pleaser-

John: Mm-hmm.

Karen: Oh yeah.

Jim: that they need me.

Karen: Yeah.

Jim: And it… But-

Karen: Oh yes, people pleasers really need to be needed.

Jim: Yeah, and it-

Karen: That’s a big thing.

Jim: You know, it’s true. I mean, she’s got such a great heart. She’s the best friend I’ve ever seen for these people. But how do you recognize that and get off that addiction, of being needed?

Karen: Well, what I found worked for me with all three of those friends, I finally had to say to them, “I’m so sorry for what you’re going through. I know it’s a constant blow by blow. There’s new developments all the time and you are in crisis mode and you’re just trying to survive and I’m so sorry about that. I want you to know that I’m here for you, but I can’t be here for you continually. So, can we grab coffee one Saturday a month?”

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Karen: “Three hours if I have to.”

Jim: Wow.

Karen: Or an hour. Whatever it takes, but I can’t do this little snippet, snippet, snippet all day long. And I just feel like sometimes I’m letting you run to me, rather than to God. And God’s the place where you should be headed.”

Jim: Now in that example, what caught me in the book, too, is your kids actually verbalized it, right?

Karen: Mm-hmm.

Jim: What did they say to you? ‘Cause I… My heart broke when-

Karen: Mm-hmm.

Jim: I mean, it must have just went, “Ugh.” A dagger right through your heart.

Karen: Yeah, yeah.

Jim: What did your kids say about all these phone calls?

Karen: Well, they just kind of subtly, you know, would say, “Mom, you’re always on the phone. Mom, you’re always on the phone.” I’m like, “Well, don’t you realize Mrs. So-And-So needs me right now.” And they’re like, “Yeah, but we kind of need you, too.”

Jim: Wow, yeah.

Karen: And I’m like, “Oh, you’re right.”

Jim: That’s the dagger.

John: Mm-hmm.

Karen: You’re right.

Jim: Mm-hmm. Wh- what’s the curse of capability? It kind of fits in this spot, I think.

Karen: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. Not just women have this, but I find for me a lot of times, it’s women, especially stay-at-home moms sometimes.

Jim: Uh-huh.

Karen: We feel like, you know, they’re able to take on so many things and they have all this time in their schedule-

Jim: Yeah, right.

Karen: ’cause they’re a stay-at-home mom. You know, I was one for many years. But it doesn’t just apply to, to women who are stay-at-home moms, but I see that the most with them. But it’s this, this curse that we appear so capable and so competent and so able to juggle so many things that it becomes a curse, because people just come to us with their problems and with their things, they need help with, because they just know we’re so capable. And we aren’t gonna actually take something off of our plate when we’re asked to put a new responsibility on, ’cause we’re just so sure we’re so clever, that if we just rearrange everything, somehow we’ll make it all fit.

John: Mm-hmm. Yeah, I- I’m pretty sure I can do this, too.

Karen: Mm-hmm.

John: I’ve, I’ve got a daughter who just packs it all in, and, uh, it’s exhausting sometimes to watch that. Well, this is Focus on the Family with Jim Daly, and our guest today is Karen Ehman. And, uh, we’re talking about people pleasing, and Karen has written a terrific book, When Making Other Happy Is Making You Miserable: How to Break the Pattern of People Pleasing and Confidently Live Your Life. Get a copy of that book from us here when you call 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY, or stop by

Jim: Uh, Karen, describe some practical tips to help people say no.

Karen: Well, I have these little one sentence sermons I preach to myself-

Jim: Okay (laughs).

Karen: sometimes when I’m kinda, uh, feeling like I’m headed down that people pleasing trail again. And, and one of them is, I need to remind myself that every need is not necessarily my call. Like, somebody’s called to say yes to that need and to say yes to that responsibility, but it might not always be me.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Karen: So I have to realize not every need is not necessarily my ca- is necessarily my call. I’m not the savior of everything. I can’t be that. Also, I, I have preached to myself this often. I just did this last week, that I can say yes to a friendship, but still say no to that friend. Like, I used to-

Jim: Yeah, say, say no to a request.

Karen: Yes. Yeah, I, I-

Jim: Yeah.

Karen: used to think, like, I had to say yes to every request that a friend gave to me, or I wasn’t saying yes to the friendship. But I can still yes to the friendship with saying no to requests from a friend. Our friendship can stay intact if I’m just honest with them. I don’t have to always say yes, all the time.

Jim: Yeah. Um, self-care. Okay, we… Everybody talks about it in the culture, probably some people giggle about it. Self-care, really? Do we need that? Like, what… Look at the demands. We don’t have time for self-care. But you do say self-care is important. Why?

Karen: Well, and I think it’s important first to define what that is, ’cause-

Jim: Okay.

Karen: when you say self-care to some people, they think, “Oh, that means a spa day. I need to go to the spa.” I mean, I’m not against going to the spa.

Jim: (laughs)

Karen: If you wanna gift me with a spa card for being on the program, I’m not gonna say no to it, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m not talking about, you know, getting your nails painted or getting a massage or whatever, even though those, those things can be great. It’s caring for your soul. It’s, like, pulling away from all those-

Jim: Right.

Karen: responsibilities, all those demands, letting your body rest, letting your mind rest, letting your soul just rest, and just spending time with God or just resting. Like, hello, take a nap. Maybe you need a nap. Maybe that’s the most spiritual thing you can do today, is take a nap, ’cause you’re running yourself ragged.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Karen: We have to care for ourselves. Just like that, and I know it’s an overused example, but on the airlines, uh, airplanes, when it says, “If the oxygen mask drops, secure your mask first before assisting others.” Sometimes we’re no good for other people, because we’re not securing our own masks.

John: Yeah.

Jim: I’m laughing, ’cause it happened to me on a flight one time.

Karen: Oh, it did?

Jim: The computer, it lost the oxygen and, and there was no air in the cabin. So the buzzer went off, the masks came down, I put it on, and I was traveling with a colleague, and I said, “Hey, the bag’s not filling up.” And he goes, “Remember, the bag will not inflate (laughs).” I mean, I must have heard this 10,000 times.

Karen: Yeah, he actually listened.

Jim: The first thing I said was, “Hey, the bag’s not filling up.” And we were all good and we landed safely, but I thought, “What an idiot (laughs). How many times have I heard this?” So, I mean, it’s fun to remind yourselves of the right things, right?

Karen: Mm-hmm, yep.

Jim: And to remember them. Uh, you found a helpful exercise to align your priorities and your daily habits. I think it was in kind of monitoring or writing down what those habits were. Is that right?

Karen: Yeah, yeah. So, sometimes we’re asked what our priorities are, and we might list them off and say, “Oh, it’s God and then it’s my spouse and then it’s my kids and family and then it’s my job and other things outside of my job.” And we kind of give them these numbers in our brain, but I was challenged by somebody to really watch my life for three weeks and to write down how I spent my time. Not how I wanted to, like, not my schedule that I’d written, that I was shooting for, but how it actually went down.

Jim: Uh-huh.

Karen: And it was so eye opening to me when I looked back over those three weeks and I saw that there were so many times I was letting something that was a lower number, um, on the, on the priority list, you know-

Jim: Kind of an intrusion.

Karen: Yeah, like, I would say, “Oh, my close friends, they’re, like, number seven or whatever, and, and my, my spouse is number two or whatever.” And I was spending so much time doing the number seven things. I was picking up the phone all the time, connecting with people, helping them out, meeting their needs, putting out their fires, giving them the link that they asked for, whatever. I don’t know why I get… I always get asked for links to stuff, but people are like, “Hey, you posted that on your-”

Jim: You must be resourceful.

Karen: Well, “You posted it on your Instagram. Where’s that teapot from?” I’m sorry. I’m trying to make dinner. I can’t answer that right now. But I, I really saw that although I said my priorities lined up a certain way, the reality of my schedule was showing something different.

John: Mm-hmm. There are seasons though, aren’t, aren’t there, Karen? I mean, for instance, we have six kids. It, it seems like one of them is… They’re all adults right now, but one of them from time to time needs some extra special attention. And they float up-

Karen: Yes.

John: They… I mean, that becomes the priority over anybody else. So, give us permission-

Karen: Yes, yes.

John: somehow to, to think in terms of seasons.

Karen: So, what is so crucial, and I’m so glad you brought that up, is yeah, we don’t want it to be this cut and dry, black and white kind of thing, but it’s crucial to be walking with the Lord and having him tap you on the heart when there’s somebody that needs some extra time.

John: Mm-hmm.

Karen: There’s somebody… Even, you know, sometimes those, those priorities flip. There are times that maybe I’m spending time with my kids, but a neighbor has a tragedy that just happened, and I need to put my kids on hold and go tend to the neighbor and they need to see that. They need to see that there are times that there are interruptions in our day that are sent our way by God.

John: Yeah.

Karen: But what I’m talking about with this whole exercise is just in general, are we letting our people pleasing ways put people outside of our family and trivial things at the top of our list when really, we’re not really tending to the top of the list?

Jim: Karen, let me ask you, just going back to that other response, uh, when your spouse is that people pleaser and, you know, these can be delicate conversations, because what they’re into is very good. They’re helping a family member, a friend through circumstance, three friends through divorces-

Karen: Mm-hmm.

Jim: in your example earlier. How does the spouse of the people pleaser sow the seeds of, “Maybe we need to look at this”? Because that can be very dangerous.

Karen: Yes. So, I think the thing that’s the most helpful is in your messaging to them and the way that you describe it is to not make a negative thing, like, “You are such a people pleaser, and you need to stop it.”

Jim: Right (laughs).

Karen: Okay, that would not go over well. But instead, to kind of describe it this way, “You have this amazing strength of being available for people, of being empathetic, of being helpful and encouraging. But sometimes that strength gets carried to an extreme, because people, they kind of maximize on that strength-

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Karen: and now it’s…” Well, we don’t say in our house a weakness. “Now it’s become a non-strength. And I just see that this strength gets taken advantage of sometimes. So, I’m just, you know, wanting to help you in that way, if I can.” My husband’s had to say this to me. Like, he knows when I’m taking on too much and I’ll hang up the phone and he’ll go, “Really? You really just said yes to that? Like, really? I know you’re really good at it, Karen, but you don’t have to do it all the time.” So, I think kind of describing it in the language that it’s, it’s a great thing about you, but you, you love it so much and you’re so good at it, that you don’t see when it gets out of, out of check.

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: Yeah. What are the, uh, specific rules and boundaries you stick to when you’re trying to juggle all those responsibilities, when your husband is making maybe that observation that you got too much going on? How do you pull it back in when it comes to the home, work, church, good things?

Karen: You’re gonna laugh at me and my answer I’m gonna give you. Are you ready to laugh? I can tell when I- my life is out of balance and I’ve taken on too much, because my purse starts to get messy.

Jim: (laughs)

Karen: Okay, this… Hang with me for a minute. Hang with me for a minute.

Jim: This is a metric.

Karen: Yes, hang with me for a minute.

Jim: (laughs)

Karen: When I am so busy, I can’t breathe, I’m doing so much, my purse gets messy. And so, there are sometimes that I look at my purse and it’s a mess and I’m like, “I haven’t even had time to put things back in my purse in the right spot. Maybe I’m doing too much. Maybe I need…” For other people, it’s their car. Their car gets real messy. For other people, it’s something else. But I can tell when my life is so over-scheduled and over-committed that I can’t even tend to something simple, that it’s time that I need to step back, look at everything on my plate, assess it, ask the Lord, “Am I still supposed to be doing this? Is this something I should continue? Is this something-

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Karen: I should bow out of? Is this something I should say, ‘I’m gonna finish it,’ and then I’m bowing out in six months?” But constantly, take that twofold plate to the Lord and hold it up to him and say, “I want only on this plate the things you want me to put on there.”

Jim: That’s really good. I think mine’s the, uh, car.

Karen: Is it?

Jim: The dirty car. Yeah, things get cluttered in there. I’ve got, uh, you know, hats and extra T-shirts that I’ve-

Karen: I, I heard you had a washing machine in, in the back-

Jim: Yeah (laughs). Well, that’s a whole nother problem. The broken washing machines in the back of my truck and I’ve gotta figure out what to do with it, but I’ll discount that one. Let me ask you, uh, speak to the woman’s heart who struggles with guilt and feeling like they can never do enough. Man, there’s so many… Women have such a capacity to look at their own hearts first. I see this with Jean. I mean, and it… Guys, we’re so egotistical. I mean, it… We’re looking at the other guy saying, “Uh, it was his fault.” But women, they do. They look at their own life first and say, “What have I done?” And speak to that woman that does that maybe too much so, ’cause she’s not recognizing the pusher and the manipulator and the maximizer. What can she do to wake up to that?

Karen: You know, I had someone say to me one time when I was in my busiest season of people pleasing and just running around and doing everything, and I was exhausted. It’s an exhausting way to live. I was processing w- with her and kind of venting and she said, “You know, this is gonna sound trite, but Karen, we are human beings, not human doings.”

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Karen: “And I think you kind of got that mixed up. You are equating your worth by how much you’re doing, by how much you’re helping people.” And for me, I know it’s that I’m trying to go back in my past and and fix things in my past. You know, I, I love to help people that are going through divorces, ’cause I was a child of divorce. I know what their kids are going through.

Jim: Yeah.

Karen: And so, sometimes it can just get to a, a point where we’re doing it too much. We’re doing, doing, doing, and we think that in doing, it equates, “I’m serving. I’m, I’m, I’m, you know, being a good Christian.” And we need to realize that God loves us just like we are, even if we don’t do a si- single thing.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Karen: Even if we don’t do a single thing. We need to rest in Him alone, find our worth in Him alone, and know that we can have a connection with him that is, is genuine and earnest in that. We are saying, “Lord, I wanna be used. I want to serve, but will you please show me where I am and where I am not to serve? Because my tendency is the minute, I hear something, I think it’s my, you know, my response-

Jim: Yeah.

Karen: or it’s my responsibility to, to meet that need.”

Jim: Yeah.

Karen: “And I know it’s not. There’s other people out there that you can use, and if I say yes to a responsibility I’m not meant to take on, I’m taking the blessing away from the person you did want to do it.” So, it’s that connection with God, having him know your heart, that your heart is bent toward service and loving other people, but you need to know when it’s not your call, as well as when it is.

Jim: Yeah, no, that’s so good. It reminds of That the World May Know, Ray Vander Laan. We did that series with him. Jean and I were able to go to Israel with the group, with him. And the main teaching coming out of that was when sin entered the world, chaos entered the world with it.

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: And there’s chaos in this world. But Jesus came so that we might have shalom, God’s peace.

Karen: Mm-hmm.

Jim: And that really is kind of the spiritual overtone of what you’re talking about. If your life is in chaos because you’re saying yes to everybody, you need to step back and, and find God’s shalom, and that may require you to say no more often. And what a great reminder. Karen, this has been so good. The time has flown by. I wasn’t sure, you know, how this was gonna go, but I think everyone, men, women, everyone can connect to this idea of when making others happy is making you miserable. And don’t let it masquerade as a spiritual thing. Uh, it’s not healthy. And I hope, uh, if this has touched a chord in your heart, you would get ahold of us. We’ve got caring Christian counselors who can talk with you. Uh, certainly we have resources, Karen’s book being one, and others that I think will begin to help you out of that people pleasing modality. And we’d love to make this book available to you, and if you can make a gift of any amount, maybe a monthly commitment, which is what Jean and I do, I know Dena and John do that-

John: Mm-hmm. We do, as well.

Jim: to the ministry. That really helps us, but a one-time gift is good, as well. Uh, send it and make that commitment and we’ll send you a copy of Karen’s book as our way of saying thank you for being part of the ministry.

John: Yeah, if you’ve, uh, donated but it’s been a while, or maybe you’ve never joined the support team, uh, contribute today. Our number is 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY, or stop by

Jim: Karen, again, thanks so much. This has been good. I’ve really enjoyed the conversation.

Karen: I have, too. Thanks so much for having me.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

John: And thank you for listening along. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team here, I’m John Fuller inviting you back next time as we once more help you and your family thrive in Christ.

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When Making Others Happy Is Making You Miserable

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