At 18 I promptly got my first credit card. It’s the american way isn’t it? No sooner than I got it I charged a $500 magazine subscription that I didn’t want and never used. Why would someone pay $500 for something they didn’t want and had no intention of using? Because they couldn’t say “no” to the telemarketer. When I was younger I would rather suffer for years of paying off a credit card debt than say “no” to a stranger over the phone.

Unfortunately I didn’t overcome this fear until my mid twenties, so several other non-decisions followed. I call them non-decisions, because I never really decided anything. Other people decided for me, and I conformed to their decision regardless of my feelings about the situation to avoid conflict.

When a child is not respected by his parents as a separate and distinct individual he becomes simply and extension of his parent’s will. Some parent’s consider this obedience, because the child does whatever the parent’s want and never says anything about his own desires. This mindset does not produce a child that is obedient to God, but rather obedient to people. This becomes a great obstacle in his relationship with God, because what God wants him to do is not what the world thinks he should do. He has to obey God in spite of what people think. But he can’t do that if his entire existence is about pleasing people.

Children learn to say “no” at about 18 months of age. This is how they express themselves and set boundaries with others. If the child is punished for saying “no” to the parents she will learn that it is not okay to set boundaries. A child who is not allowed to say “no” to her parents she is not equipped to say “no” to aggressive boys that expect something from her. She can end up with quite a reputation from doing things to please other people.

Guilt is the normal response when a person does something despite personal convictions. A person will feel guilty for doing things he never wanted to do, but couldn’t say “no” to.  This causes him to feel more unworthy, and he has and even harder time valuing himself. It becomes a cycle of succumbing to others desires and then feeling worse and worse about himself which causes him to want to please others more.

Kids conditioned by their parents to fear asserting themselves will get taken advantage of later in life. It can be through unwanted purchases, going places one doesn’t want to go, doing things good or bad that one doesn’t want to do. It happened to me plenty of times. Until I read a book that was life changing for me Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. I learned that I am not responsible for how other people feel. If I say “no” and someone is angry, that is not my fault. I am responsible for my life. I am on this earth to fulfill a purpose God has for me to use my gifts to help other people. I cannot do that if I spend all my time doing what other people want me to do. I can only be concerned about pleasing him. How everyone else feels about me is their problem.

I still have a natural aversion to salespeople. I also struggle having friendships with people who are pushy and get angry when they don’t get their way. I won’t do what other people want anymore, but I don’t like having to assert myself. But I value God’s desires for me most, and this has brought me freedom from pleasing people and the ability to set healthy boundaries. If I can learn to say “no” anyone can.