I like to think I’m fairly healthy. So, to have a nearly two-week-in-bed-flu got me wondering what was wrong. June was the fourth time in just eight months that I’d been laid up with some sort of nasty flu. I had learned from an earlier doctor’s visit that I was low in iron (not surprising because I’m a vegetarian). But this flu seemed to be something more.
Had I made myself sick?
Studies show that around 80% of all illness is caused by stress. And I’ve been no stranger to that feeling over the last few months. Not necessarily because of anything specific happening in my life, but because I’d allowed my thoughts to spiral into stress-mode.
As I lay in bed for days on end, I had the chance to really chew through some of my recent emotions with God. I realized something through being sick: it’s impossible to be a people-pleaser when you can’t get out of bed. This, I felt God pin-point, as the root of most of my stress.
For the past few months I’d fallen into a pattern of saying yes to just about everything put in front of me for fear of disappointing others. I didn’t want to say ‘no’ to work assignments, even if my agenda was already full. But because I’d taken on more than I could genuinely handle, most tasks or responsibilities had been suffering. Instead of doing five things well, I was doing ten things poorly.
Tick. Another addition to my stress metre.
Then, I felt an impression from God, a gentle scolding I’ll call it. I felt Him say “You cannot win points with Me by doing the right thing.” Just like working-for-worth at my job or in relationships, I wasn’t going to get ahead in my intimacy with God by striving.
This tough-love lesson from God now leaves me with a choice. I can keep living as though nothing has changed, and keep in the cycle of people-pleasing, stress, and sickness. Or, I can accept this revelation, walking from this point forward in freedom from an endless need to please others to feel valued.
It’s going to take purposeful, decision-making when I’m asked to do something at work. It’s even going to take consideration when I can do something fun with friends. If I want to be like the apostle Paul, who writes in 1 Corinthians that his aim is to please Christ, then I need to keep God at the centre of my decisions instead of the reactions of other people.
Is this the start of a new, less-stress, chapter of my life? I certainly hope so. Already in one week of being more intentional when making yes-no decisions, I’ve been able to focus on work and personal activities more of my choosing. Even my boss, the base director, applauded me for being able to say no to certain projects that, after praying, didn’t think were for me to take on.
This lesson is one I intend to carry with me. I am no longer a people-pleaser. Period.