The two-and-a-half cups of coffee I ingested had yet to jolt me awake. In 10 minutes, I would be center screen, giving a virtual presentation to senior leaders. My brain was foggy. I was tired. The lamp on my desk cast creepy shadows on the walls of my home office. Unlike my clients on the East Coast, I would not see the sun for another three hours. While my husband and the rest of our neighborhood slept, I was punching an online clock and preparing for a high-level briefing. This angered me.

Have you ever found yourself saying ‘yes’ and then later regretting it? Perhaps you agreed to go shopping with a friend and later backed out because you were too exhausted or unmotivated once Saturday rolled around. Maybe you offered to watch your sister’s kids so she and her husband could have a date night and then resented her because you can’t remember the last time you put on sexy underwear and a dress to go out. Or maybe you are like me, a woman whose inability to say no to work-related requests forces you to do something you don’t want to do, like get up at 3:45 a.m. and forgo your Bible study and prayer time with God. Scenarios such as these are far too common, and they create unnecessary stress, regret, and imbalance in our lives.

I complained for three days after I said ‘yes’ to the early morning meeting. I even contemplated a scheme to weasel out of it, but my conscience would not allow me to follow through. My husband listened to my rants but had little sympathy for me or my situation, “Why didn’t you just say no?” he inquired. It was a rhetorical question; we both knew the answer. I am a people-pleaser, plain and simple.

The Apostle Paul, in his writing to the Romans, encouraged people-pleasing, but in a healthy way. He said that people should love one another with brotherly affection, giving precedence and showing honor to one another (Romans 12:10). Giving precedence to someone simply means placing them above ourselves. It is an act of love but somehow, over time, we have gone from wanting to please others out of respect, to pleasing others out of a need for personal validation or affirmation. We spend a great deal of time pleasing others at the expense of our own needs and desires and what is worse, we often do so at the expense of pleasing God.

Topping the list of reasons people say ‘yes’ to things they do not want to do are insecurity, low self-esteem, perfectionism, and fear of rejection, upsetting others, burning bridges, and missing important opportunities. Since my personality is motivated by work and accomplishment, I tend to people-please for fear of losing my reputation of being the ‘one who gets things done.’

Experts say ‘no’ is a life skill that can be learned, and that it is the most important and powerful word in the English language. Thousands of articles, books, and online blogs teach us how to assert and protect ourselves from situations that threaten our time, energy, and resources, but few speak to the dangers of displeasing God in the wake of our desire to please people.

Succumbing to the pressure of people-pleasing often leads to disobedience against God’s explicit instructions. A fitting example of this is the story of King Saul. Faced with a restless and scattered populace, he compromised divine directives to appease the people’s desire, and because of his inability to resist the urge to people-please, he lost his kingdom (1 Samuel 13:1-14).

The unintended consequences of my inability to say no to my clients did not result in something as dramatic as losing an entire kingdom; however, it did rob me of God’s best that day. I entered the meeting with an angry, resentful, and frustrated heart. Brain fog hijacked my mind, and I was irritable and impatient. A simple ‘no,’ to the administrative assistant who scheduled the meeting, followed by an alternative time that worked well for all of us, was all that was needed to avoid the unfortunate situation.

What will you do the next time you are asked to do something that pushes your boundaries, challenges your priorities, or forces you to forgo your time with God? May we all learn from King Saul and find the strength to say no to contradictory demands, ensuring that our choices leave no room for regret.

Scripture Readings:

Romans 12:10 (NIV)

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.

Galatians 1:10 (NIV)

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

1 Samuel 13:11-12 (NIV)

Saul replied, “When I saw that the men were scattering and that you [Samuel] did not come at the set time, and that the Philistines were assembling at Mikmash,12I thought, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the Lords’ favor.’ So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering.


Teach me, Lord, to find my satisfaction in pleasing You rather than seeking the approval of people. Grant me the discernment to recognize the moments when I need to say no and to set boundaries that align with Your will. Help me understand that in saying no to certain demands, I am saying yes to You and Your purpose for my life. I trust in Your wisdom to help me navigate the balance between kindness to others, self-care, and Your will.