How to be a Christian without being a doormat

Hi, my name is Lauren and I’m a recovering doormat.

Through my growth in Christ I have come to wonder- Where is the line between service to others and “doormatism?” It is a very grey area to me. We are supposed to serve others with a willing heart but also not allow ourselves to be taken advantage of as the temple of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes I do something for someone I didn’t want to do and then shame myself for resenting them- “you shouldn’t be annoyed, you’re doing what Christ wants!” But am I really?

This post has been as much as the Holy Spirit revealing to me areas I need to work on as much as it is a blog post on the fruits of the Spirit. How in the world are we to be the hands and feet of Christ without being a doormat-people-pleaser?! On my way to work this came to me as a blog post idea. At first I thought maybe I could identify 3 areas to describe. But the Holy Spirit had more to say. Don’t worry I only made notes at stop lights. Mostly. Please don’t tell my husband.

1. the state of your heart

Wouldn’t it be great if every time we were about to do something we stopped and thought about our motives for doing it?

“The sacrifice of a wicked person is detestable — how much more so when he brings it with ulterior motives!” Proverbs 21:27

When we accept the Holy Spirit, He resides in us. He begins to go to our dark, hidden basement with a flashlight, sorting through the moldy junk we’ve been putting down there and ignoring. He reveals to us at the right time certain things we either need to dust off and bring to life, or just throw away the things taking up too much space.

“Now God has revealed these things to us by the Spirit, for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.”

1 Corinthians 2:10

Even the depths of God. Wow.

Sometimes if I think about it before I say yes to something- whether it’s cookies for the art show or committing to a project- I ask myself: “Can I do this thing without resenting them later for it?” If the answer is “I don’t know.” It’s a no. (If it’s not “shoot yea” it’s a “shoot no.”) This is my way of evaluating my motives. Can I do this thing for THEM because I want to help and be of service? Or am I doing it because I should? Am I ‘shoulding’ all over myself? I do this more times than I’d like to admit.

“Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men.” Colossians 3:23

“And the King will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’” Matthew 25:40

This is a great reminder that when I’m cleaning up the mud off the floor and want to curse the person who left it there (probably was me, let’s be honest). I’m reminded I’m not doing it for me, for us to have a clean house, or for our visitors’ judgments of how well I can keep house. I’m doing it for God. My King wants me to serve others with a willing heart because ultimately I’m serving pieces of Him.

2. personal boundaries

If you have not read the Boundaries books by Henry Cloud and John Townsend, I highly recommend them. Everyone could benefit from these life-changers: Boundaries in Marriage, Boundaries, Boundaries With Kids, Boundaries With Teens. This is one way being a Christian and a doormat are not the same. We do not have to put up with certain behaviors in the name of God. As the body and temple of Christ we are called to, not only be intolerant of, but to bring light to abuse, mistreatment, and inhumanity. We have an obligation to stand up for and protect ourselves.

I struggle with finding the line sometimes between being a part of a family and codependency. I think it’s possible, according to the right motives, to care for, help, and serve others but to also have boundaries with knowing when it’s gone too far into “saviordome.”

“If your brother sins against you, go and rebuke him in private. If he listens to you, you have won your brother.” Matthew 18:1

3. your yes is yes and your no is no.

“But let your word ‘yes’ be ‘yes,’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no.’ Anything more than this is from the evil one.” Matthew 5:37 (This was our son’s Bible verse one week- never know where you’re going to get revelation!)

We’ve all done it- or had that friend do it- where we ask something of them. Then we see them grit their teeth and say “suuuuure…” You know good and well that they DON’T want to do it. And every time you ask them for something you never really can trust them to tell you the truth. You would rather hear: “Thank you so much for asking, that means a lot. But right now I’m going to have to pass. I hope you can understand.” That puts a marble in the trust jar. You know their yes is a yes and their no is a no. Saying no does not mean you are being unkind. There’s no need to explain your reason or make excuses. When we don’t speak up or say our truth –it makes us a liar. Truly evaluate your motive (#1) and say your truth. We can’t be perfect. We can’t do everything. But if we prioritize we can be awesome at some things. If we are spread so thin trying to say yes to everything that comes our way we are going to be resentful, joyless, and burned out.

4. others needs are more important than your own consistently over time

Notice I said consistently over time. There will always be those moments when you have to pee but your toddler has to go first. You have a need from your husband but he’s not in the headspace to be there for you in that moment. Those moments I go back to letting it be a way that I can give selflessly without resenting and move on.

But if this is something you’re doing over and over and never choosing to make your own wants and needs voiced- that invites resentment.

Serving the body of Christ includes self service- you are part of the body. You matter. Your health and wellness matters. Many times the Bible says Jesus went away by himself to pray. #introvertgoals

5. pleasing people instead of God

“For am I now trying to win the favor of people, or God? Or am I striving to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ.” Galatians 1:10

I don’t know about you but that one hits me hard. This explains why I have allowed the staff I worked with to play dirty music. This is why I’ve laughed off racist jokes to win the approval of those around me. Or why girls think it’s cool to watch porn with their boyfriends. Or why couples move in together before marriage. Or why spouses justify flirting with their coworker. It’s so hard to stand up and create a new path in the wilderness because we all are searching for belonging. It’s not a bad thing to need belonging- it’s innate. Standing alone creates this uneasy, lonely feeling. You might be rejected by everyone in the room and that’s hard. Cry it out if you have too. But then pat yourself on the back because our loving God is smiling and pleased with you. Angels are clapping for you and high-fiving each other at your sacrifice of pleasing God over man.

A few months ago someone said to me: “you’ve taken His Spirit with you wherever you’ve gone.” I’ve had a dark decade of my life. Grosssss. I am so sorry Lord for taking you all those places physically and mentally.

“Nevertheless, many did believe in Him even among the rulers, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, so they would not be banned from the synagogue. For they loved praise from men more than praise from God.” John 12:42-43

6. you can’t fully love others if you don’t know how to love yourself.

“The second is: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other command greater than these.” Mark 12:31

This begs the question: how do you love others as yourself if you don’t love yourself?!

First I want to define love. In my humble opinion, it is not a feeling. A feeling is a feeling and those come and go faster than a hot knife in butter. The poets had it all wrong. Love is an action verb. Love does. He GAVE His only son. Love MAKES coffee for your spouse. Love CROSSES the street to help someone else stranded. Love SAYS kind and encouraging words. No one would have any idea you love someone if you don’t SHOW it. How do you show love to yourself? By taking care of your own needs. There’s no need to feel guilty if you need time to yourself to workout, to put makeup on, paint your toenails. Look in the mirror and compliment yourself. You wouldn’t look at your friend and say “oh those thighs are so gross!” (When we speak poorly of the art we are really speaking poorly about the artists’ abilities). Are you speaking to yourself like you would a friend? Whatever it is- acknowledge your need and speak up. This goes back to #3&4 – There is no gold metal for letting everything else get in the way of taking care of yourself. You’re the only one in charge of that. An empty cup can’t pour. Refill your own cup so you can refill others. For those who have accepted Christ- you are a vessel for His Spirit. This is a duty to protect it and treat it well. You are perfectly and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). Treat yoself with kindness like the incredible temple you are.

7. purposeful grace instead of resentment

None of us REALY deserve grace. We purposeful or unknowingly hurt others. But they forgive us (hopefully) and we all move on. Sometimes it is “doormatism” to totally forgive a friend or spouse or family member who done did you wrong. But it’s also part of being a Christian. Love covers a multitude of sins. Kindly express how their actions made you feel. Then forgive. At one season of my life I had to look up the definitions of forgiveness, grace, and mercy no less than 20 times. It doesn’t dismiss the person’s actions or require you to forget. Maybe some boundaries need to be placed. But for me, forgiveness means not holding it over their head, not dwelling my thoughts on it. It’s a choice to choose grace over resentment. Jesus asked God on the cross while he was actively dying to forgive those doing this to Him because they don’t understand the impact of what they’re doing. I haven’t been nailed to a cross lately but I can assure you I wouldn’t want to forgive those who were hurting me.

8. assuming good intentions of others

Brené Brown described in one of her amazing books that everyone is doing the best they can with the (emotional) tools they have at the time. That mentality makes me more empathetic. It makes me move towards the person instead of put up a wall. We all need to be loved, especially when we are being ugly. Judgement immediately puts a wall between you and the receiver. Sometimes just reframing the way you think about certain situations can move you from the doormat to the hugger.

9. believe that you too are worthy of service

This is an extension of number 6. We must believe that we all are worthy of being forgiven, being served, being loved in order to give these things to others. If we cannot fully comprehend the love and grace of God that we have received then how do we know to give it to others??

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10

10. my identity is in Christ not the doormat

Notice I refer to myself as a recovering doormat- I don’t want to associate with something I don’t want to be. If I constantly identify with it it becomes part of me. (I’m really into semantics y’all). Something I didn’t realize until I was 32 is that everyone has a “God-shaped” hole in their hearts that only He can fill. We all have this longing for something more. More love, more belonging, more joy and good feels. We all try to put things in there to fill it: accolades, selfie likes, medications, alcohol, sex, porn, hoarding, shopping, vanity. None of us are immune. We all want to feel whole. Only Christ can do that for us.

I have been heart broken, on the bathroom floor, repeating Bible verses to myself as I cry. Believing this is easier said than done at times. And then there’s those moments when I don’t let others opinions affect my mood and I call it a win.

“May God himself, the God who makes everything holy and whole, make you holy and whole, put you together—spirit, soul, and body—and keep you fit for the coming of our Master, Jesus Christ. The One who called you is completely dependable. If he said it, he’ll do it!” 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

11.victim chair

I went to a retreat recently. While I was there God showed up. I know He tells me things when stuff pops into my head unprovoked, with no linear thought. It’s usually one word or small sentence. He values brevity, hah. As God revealed things to my heart I drew a victims’ chair. It was a throne, beautiful, comfy, and familiar. The crown was labeled “pride.” The umbrella shielding me from the sun light was my pain. The handcuffs keeping me there were labeled “shame” and “fear.”

All that to say that being a victim will always make you a doormat. You’ll always be the intended or unintended receiver of everything negative. You won’t be able to fully give to others without resenting because you’ll always be the victim. I know this because I love sitting in that familiar chair. “Well I wouldn’t have _____ if you wouldn’t have _____…”

So join me in getting out of that familiar and comfy chair and walk over to that person who needs love and love all up on em. Be the person you needed when you were needy. Not because any of us deserve it but because it’s what we are called to do as disciples.

Photo credit: Lauren Garrison Photography