I am a people-pleaser. We’ve been called lots of things down through time–some not so flattering: doormat, push-over, yes-man, spineless, and weakling are just a few. If you’re anything like me, you’ll take on this roll despite the very little thanks and the put-downs that come with it because it is a gift to yourself to do these things for others. Despite the way people-pleasers are often treated, it’s also a gift to others.

Without the people-pleasers, how would anything get done?

This is a joke, but it has a very real honesty to it. There is a reason that people ask us to do work, to listen, to carry burdens, to get things done which otherwise would go undone. There are things that no one wants to do that a people-pleaser will do. It fulfills us.

The problem with people-pleasing is that we give, it is our joy to give, and we will continue to give until there is sometimes nothing left. You may think the giving of a servant-hearted people-pleaser only looks like chores and tasks and events. Actually, a person who aims to please will also give in many other ways. We will listen to your problems, taking on trauma and drama without concern for our own mental health. We’ll spend money (sometimes money we don’t have) to make our loved ones feel special and loved. We’ll take on your burdens sometimes even when you don’t ask us to, need us to, or even want us too. Sometimes we need permission to put these burdens down.

Too many times I have gotten stuck in a rut of saying “yes” to others when I needed to say “yes” to myself, to my children, or to my family. When it came to letting go of some of these burdens, it was impossible to give them up. Who would do all this work if not me? Who would get the praise? Who would get the phone calls, the emails, the information, the credit?

This thought process didn’t just saturate my church life, but even my jobs. Even when I worked part-time, I worked a lot. My managers would call me when they were in a bind because I would say YES. I came to work once in pajama pants to organize a wall of jeans at J.C. Penney. I had to act as a customer because the men’s department needed a person, and I lived too far away to go home and change. I also hated to quit any job because I couldn’t imagine anyone getting the job done right if I should leave. It wasn’t until well into my twenties that I realized the truth: I am merely a space to fill, and that space would be filled in my absence.

Sometimes God will not take your burden. Sometimes you have to put it down.

To make ourselves feel better about saying NO, we will pray for God to give it to someone else. We’ll bargain. We’ll tell the person asking that we’ll pray about it when actually we’re praying for someone else to take it on, and when they don’t, we do. We do this in all other areas of life too. We have a burden to bear. It might be forgiving someone, managing grief, doing something particularly difficult, or many other things that are hard to carry. Instead of putting these things down by offering forgiveness, accepting the grief or loss, letting someone support us in our difficulty, we pray for God to take them from us.

I’m thirty-three years old. I’ve been a people-pleaser for that many years for whatever reason. I’ve lived through an abusive relationship and marriage, I’ve endured divorce, depression, family drama and trauma, I’ve moved across the country, been broke, experienced loss, and watched people I love taken away piece by piece by old age and disease. These burdens are something I endure, but not something I have to carry. God cannot always take them from us no matter how much we cry and beg. Sometimes we just have to put them down.

Forgiveness is not about asking God to take away your anger. He may not. He may let you feel that. If you can put the burden down and forgive, your anger will be put down also.

Accepting grief is not about asking God to fix the thing causing you grief. He may not heal your mother. He may not bring your father’s memory back. He may not bring your brother back to the church. If you put the burden of their physical, spiritual, and mental health down, your grief will be put down also.

Saying no is not about asking God to let you say no. It’s not about asking God to send someone else in your place. It’s not about asking God to give you more time, money, and organization to get more and more done. If you can just say no and put that burden down, the feeling of failure will be put down also.

Sometimes God will not take your burden. Sometimes you have to put it down.

Having trouble with your burdens? Open your Bible to Matthew 11 and enjoy some time with the Lord.