Bill Cosby once said, “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”
Isn’t that the truth? We’ve all been pulled in many different directions wanting to please everyone all at the same time, haven’t we? No doubt, it’s the right thing to be compassionate and love others. Without that, it’s a lonely sad life. But sometimes we want to please others so much that we neglect ourselves.
When asked which is the greatest command, Jesus Christ declared, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” He then revealed the second greatest commandment, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”
We’ve all heard these words a thousand times. We need to Love God and Love our Neighbor. Got it. So, as good loving people, we set ourselves on a mission to please everyone, after all it is a commandment, right? But sometimes, in our quest to serve and love others, we become so focused on that task that we lose focus on ourselves. We neglect what’s important to us. We neglect to do things for ourselves. We credit doing things for ourselves as being selfish.
One of my favorite TV shows is The Biggest Loser. Maybe I like it so much because I can relate to the contestants very well. If I’m not making a conscious effort to watch what I eat and get myself to the gym every day I start packing on the LBs. It’s a fact of life, and unfortunately it took me 27 years to learn it. Anyway, on Biggest Loser, Bob and Jillian have to constantly remind contestants that they are worth it. They spend time getting into the minds and hearts of the people they work with. Most of the time people ballooned to the weight they came on the show with because, for one reason or another, they have neglected to care about themselves. Some people put their kids first, some put their careers first, some put church service first. But nearly every contestant puts something before himself. As a result, when they come on the ranch, they are not the person they want to be.
But it IS selfish to put ourselves first isn’t it? Remember the first two commandments? Love God, love your neighbor. Well, let’s look at it again: “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” See that? We are to love others as we love ourselves! So we are to love God, love ourselves, then love our neighbor as we love ourselves. This is a very important detail that is often overlooked. Without the proper time investment in yourself you cannot become what you want to be. If you don’t love yourself you can never really love others. And without a good love investment in yourself, you will likely not survive long enough to show too much love anyway!
Finally, I wanted to include a poem I recently heard on the Dr. Laura program that relates to this topic. It’s by Barbara Basser:
When Angela was very young,
Age two to three or so,
Her mother and her father
Taught her never to say NO.
They taught her that she must agree
With everything they said,
And if she didn’t, she was spanked
And sent upstairs to bed.
So Angela grew up to be
A most agreeable child
She was never angry
And she was never wild
She always shared, she always cared,
She never picked a fight,
And no matter what her parents said,
She thought that they were right.
Angela the Angel did very well in school
And, as you might imagine, she followed every rule
Her teachers said she was so well-bred,
So quiet and so good,
But how Angela felt inside
They nevery understood.
Angela had lots of friends
Who liked her for her smile
They knew she was the kind of gal
Who’d go the extra mile
And even when she had a cold,
And really needed rest,
When someone asked her if she’d help
She always answered Yes.
When Angela was thirty-three, she was a lawyer’s wife.
She had a home and family, and a nice suburban life.
She had a little girl of four
And a little boy of nine,
And if someone asked her how she felt
She always answered “Fine”
But one cold night near Christmastime
When her family was in bed
She lay awake as awful thoughts went spinning through her head
She didn’t know why, and she didn’t know how,
But she wanted her life to end
So she begged Whoever put her here
To take her back again.
And then she heard, from deep inside,
A voice that was soft and low
It only said a single word,
And the word it said was NO
From that moment on, Angela knew
Exactly what she had to do.
Her life depended on that word,
so this is what her loved ones heard:
NO, I just don’t want to
NO, I don’t agree
NO, that’s yours to handle
NO, that’s wrong for me
NO, I wanted something else
NO, that hurt a lot!
NO, I’m tired, and NO, I’m busy, and NO, I’d rather not!
Well, her family found it shocking,
Her friends reacted with surprise
But Angela was different, you could see it in her eyes
For they’ve held no meek submission
Since that night three years ago
When Angela the Angel got permission to say NO.
Today Angela’s a person first, then a mother and a wife.
She knows where she begins and ends,
She has a separate life.
She has talents and ambitions,
She has feelings, needs and goals.
She has money in the bank and an opinion at the polls.
And to her boy and girl she says,
“It’s nice when we agree
But if you can’t say NO, you’ll never grow
To be all you’re meant to be.
Because I know I’m sometimes wrong,
And because I love you so,
You’ll always be my Angels
Even when you tell me “NO”