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Know Thy Limitations

assistThe title of this post is a commandment. It’s not one of the big 10, of course, but it’s important.

I’ve always been a people-pleaser and though I’m so much better than I used to be at setting boundaries, I can still fall prey to the old ways.

In this first chapter of Margaret Feinberg’s book, Fight Back with Joy, she describes an experiment she tried to foster joy. It was simple enough: she would say “yes” to any request made by any person for a whole week.

Only, just like I’ve found with living to please people, it didn’t go as planned. It was unsustainable, overwhelming, and exhausting. Here’s her quote,

Saying yes to everything was causing me to spend time and energy on the inconsequential, ignoring the people who mattered most.

That sums up what my life used to be like. Why? Because I was more concerned about what someone I hardly knew thought of me and pleasing them that I would inevitably say no to those closest. It may have been a verbal “no” because of exhaustion or it may have been indirectly said through absence or emotional exhaustion.

There really is such thing as spreading yourself too thin. You are intended to experience joy in serving others and giving, but you can’t say yes to everything without missing out on the most important things.

Reminds me of a thought a minister shared once about self-control. To paraphrase, he said you don’t need to constantly say no to a bunch of little things if you have your yes to the biggest thing.

Your yes belongs with Jesus and He leads you into true joy. As Margaret goes on to say,

The true power of joy supersedes a chirpy disposition, candy-coated emotion, or saccharine fantasy. It’s far more tangible than any magical notion of clicking your heels and discovering your bliss.

You are limited, God is not. Take your limited yes and put it in His hands, and He’ll do amazing things with it.

This is what I’m choosing today once again. There are so many things that could threaten to overwhelm me, but I also believe He has joy for me–resilient, purposeful, overcoming joy.

What do you think? Want to join me? Where do you stand with people pleasing or saying yes to too much?

fbwj-buttonWelcome to week 1 of our discussion of Fight Back with Joy (disclosure) by Margaret Feinberg. We are taking a sentence, paragraph, or passage that inspires, encourages, or challenges and writing about it. If you have a response on your blog, head over to my friend and co-facilitator, Sarah Salter’s blog for her thoughts and the widget to add your post. Whether you’ve read the chapter or not, please dive into the conversation!


  1. I almost wrote on the exact same quote! I’ve always battled with limitations and boundaries. I’m very slowly learning that sometimes, God works best through my “No.”
    Sarah Salter recently posted..Joy in the Fire SwampMy Profile

    • I can be terrible at overestimating how much I can do. Sometimes it’s not just the people-pleasing thing, it’s a matter of not correctly seeing my time commitments and abilities. Having to learn His rest, breathing, and evaluating it all with Him. Thanks Sarah.

  2. My people pleasing wasn’t the “Yes” kind like this. Mine was wanting to please everyone so I failed to make a decision or would change something because someone didn’t like it. Still a huge problem.
    Bill (cycelguy) recently posted..The Fi5th GospelMy Profile

    • Oh yeah, I’ve played that dangerous game too! Thank God He’s conforming us to the image of Jesus and working out these character issues. I’m not where I once was and I’m sure you’re not either. Not arrived, but progressing by His grace. Thank you, Bill.

    • Lifting you up in prayer today, Bill!

  3. I highlighted Margaret’s realization as I read.

    It made me think again about the different results that come from our efforts versus God’s working.

    The plans we make, fall short.

    God’s working in our lives is the right way.

    • True. There are ideas that seem good to us and God will let us try then fail so we see it clearly. He’s so good overseeing our process and growth, teaching us perfectly (as you wrote about). Thank you, Dusty!

    • Yes, Dusty! So thrilled this resonated with you.

  4. Several years ago, I crashed and burned because I was aiming toward being a perfect people-pleaser. Not only is it impossible, but it wears us down and out physically. For a while, I swung to the other extreme and didn’t care about what others thought much at all. Now, I’m learning to balance this out with preferring others but living the truth that obedience is better than sacrifice. Not sure this makes sense, but it’s been swimming around in my thoughts lately.
    Kari Scare recently posted..What To Do When You Don’t Know What To DoMy Profile

    • I think it makes perfect sense. I also think when we’ve lived one extreme many times it takes that extreme swing the other direction as we build our “muscle” to live in the proper balance. God wants us to say yes, but not to our destruction and for the right reasons. I’m constantly amazed at His great patience with us! Thanks so much, Kari.

    • Kari, that perfect balance is the key. I am so thrilled you are working to find this.

  5. Yes! Learning to say no is such a challenge, but God uses it in such remarkable ways. Thank you for this reminder today, Jason. I am so thrilled you have enjoyed Fight Back With Joy.
    Margaret Feinberg recently posted..Sometimes We Ask What and Why Too EarlyMy Profile

    • I’m excited to get further into, Margaret. Joy is something I had lacked in the last season of my life, and I definitely feel like God is highlighting it in your book and other sources. There is some healing taking place! Thanks so much.

  6. Great post.
    Love what your minister friend said about having your Big Yes’. Knowing where God wants you to focus helps prioritize your life.
    My focus is starting to become more clear. And as it does I’m finding more joy in letting go of other things that are getting in my way of saying yes to the BIG things God is putting in front of me.
    There are different seasons in our lives. Key is to be in the right season and not try and stay in a season that is passing away or jumping ahead to a season that hasn’t arrived yet.

    I’m looking forward to starting this book soon. I think it will be a huge blessing to me and the season I’m about to go into.

    God bless.

    • That’s so important. Knowing the seasons and changing with it. I always think of the analogy that in the winter you need a coat and heavier clothes, but when you get to spring you’d overheat with all that extra. We don’t do away with the activities or ways of the last season, but we do need to appropriately respond to where we are. God is so good to help us with that! And once you start the book, if you want to jump in with any posts, that would be wonderful (no pressure though). 🙂 Thanks TC.

      • Love that analogy. It’s spot on.

        I’ll try my best to jump in…no promises though. Looking forward to reading every one else’s insights from the book.
        Take care.

        • No problem! Just wanted you to know you’re welcome even if it’s not every week. 🙂 Thanks TC.

    • TC, I can’t wait to hear what you think of Fight Back With Joy!
      Margaret Feinberg recently posted..Sometimes We Ask What and Why Too EarlyMy Profile

  7. I’ve written often about my problem with people-pleasing. Like Bill my worst problem came when having to make decisions I knew would make someone unhappy. Having to choose between two people I loved was almost more than I could handle. Finally realizing the hard way that it was impossible gave me the courage to take baby steps toward change. This sounds like a book I need to add to my reading list. Thanks Jason!
    Deb Wolf recently posted..Children Love to Pray -- Lucado Treasury of Bedtime PrayersMy Profile

    • There are so many angles to the people-pleasing problem, aren’t there? It all seems noble and nice, but it’s a bondage. I hope you do add it to your reading list. So far, I’m really enjoying it. Thank you, Deb!

    • Deb, can’t wait to hear what you think of Fight Back With Joy!
      Margaret Feinberg recently posted..Sometimes We Ask What and Why Too EarlyMy Profile

  8. Been there, done that, and you are so right, Jason, it is utterly exhausting and draining. I love to say ‘yes’ when I can, but I really think about it before any commitment is made. Things which distract us from those closest to us will only serve to diminish our full capacity for loving as Christ would have us love. Blessings, and thanks for the inspiration!
    Martha Orlando recently posted..Go Near and ListenMy Profile

    • Thank you, Martha! And I started figuring out that I liked saying yes but when I didn’t or couldn’t follow through it felt awful. I want to be a man of my word so I had better be sure I can commit to what I’m saying I will commit to! Thanks again.

    • Martha, I love your point of “saying yes when I can.” It goes back to finding that balance. Thank you for sharing sweet friend.
      Margaret Feinberg recently posted..Sometimes We Ask What and Why Too EarlyMy Profile

      • Thank you, Margaret! I’m looking forward to reading your book. Blessings!
        Martha Orlando recently posted..Go Near and ListenMy Profile

  9. We bend over backwards to please people, and forget the One who delights in us no matter what. Thanks for the post, Jason.
    Glynn recently posted..Fight Back with JoyMy Profile

    • Yes! How awesome a thought is that? He delights in us always. At times, I think I understand, but there is always greater depth to that truth. Thank you, Glynn.

    • Love this, Glynn!
      Margaret Feinberg recently posted..Sometimes We Ask What and Why Too EarlyMy Profile

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