I remember hanging up the phone and sobbing. It felt like someone had ripped out my soul, swallowed it, and then spit it out. I don’t remember the last time I cried with my entire body, but that night I did. The conversation I had with a dear friend quickly turned south and years of buried pain came to the surface. Between heated accusations and screams, we spoke words we would both come to regret. But it wasn’t just her words that smashed me that evening, it was the rules I had lived by my entire life that broke me.
I’ve spent most of my life abiding by self-governed rules — rules I implemented because my parents, church, or family praised me if I followed them or shamed me if I broke them. Rules like, Be good, be quiet, be pretty. Rules like, Don’t disappoint people, don’t be too emotional, don’t be too needy. I think we all have rules or “thou shalt not’s” in our lives. We live and die by these commandants we’ve written on our hearts. They are the laws that guide our choices, relationships, and careers. We are fixated on following them at any cost. These commandments of our hearts control all we do.
Perhaps the number one commandment that has governed my life has been this: thou shalt not make people mad. I must, must, must make people happy. I felt responsible for the emotional well-being of other people. I carried this commandment into every scenario, friendship, and social interaction. It burrowed inside my chest like blood keeping me alive. That night on the phone, I couldn’t control the emotions of my friend, and it killed me. I couldn’t make her happy or like me or be pleased with me. And that night my need to keep that commandment broke, and it broke me.
Like the commandments God gave Moses on Mount Sinai, mine were shattered. Commandments and laws and rules are put in place to keep us safe but not to be worshipped. I spent my life worshipping the commandments of my heart. If I could just keep my rules, I would be okay. I would be loved back. But a stone tablet can never love me back. It can’t. It can give me a sense of security, but it can never love me — at least not the way Jesus does.
I’m learning to break the laws that keep me in my concrete slab. My feet are breaking free from my need to please people, to be the peacemaker and the responsible one. I am letting these commandments be markers in the sand but not what keeps my soul sustained. These rules are being replaced by relationship with God, the only true source of life, the only One who can truly care for the happiness and emotions of other people. I never had the power to fix people’s feelings. It was an impossible burden to carry. When the temptation to control another person’s emotional experience arises, I slowly and nervously hand that person back to Christ. Only God can heal them, protect them, and hold them. I can come beside them in love, but I am not responsible to manage all of their emotions.
It’s a painful process to let some rules break, especially my need to keep people happy. But this rule (more than any) needs to be smashed. It’s not that I don’t encourage, care, and love others. It’s that my identity isn’t dependent on making people happy. So even when it’s painful I’m learning to let these “thou shalt not’s” of my heart break. It’s hard to learn a new way of living, but it’s also freeing. I am only bound by one law. It is the law that redeemed all the laws. Jeremiah 31:33 says, “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. I will be there God, and they shall be my people.” I am only bound by the law of God’s love.
When the laws you are living by start to break and pain ripples through your body, remember God is doing a good work. He is replacing your need to find satisfaction in being a rule-keeper to finding deeper relationship with Him. Breaking the rules might just be the greatest gift God can give you because therein, true, life-breathing love exists.
What are the commandments of your heart that you are living by?
What “thou shalt not’s” in your life need to be broken?”
God replaces your need to find satisfaction in being a rule-keeper to finding deeper relationship with Him. -Anjuli Paschall: Click To Tweet Leave a Comment
Anjuli, I feel the same way. I feel as if your words are my words as I was reading this. I am sorry for the pain you are feeling at this moment. I know once words are spoken, it is so hard to get pass that. Praying for you and your friendship to heal and know that true friendship will never be broken. May the love you both have for each other overwhelms both of your heart and allow healing to build. Thank you for this message.
I love your name (first of al!). I pray God continues to give us strength to break these rules in our hearts. Thanks for letting me know I’m not alone.
Molly Parks says
I thank you for this post! It is so hard to realize that there are some rules that need to be broken. I’m thankful for your honesty in sharing hard things; I’m thankful for this community of women who care enough to be vulnerable in their writing. Truth is healing. God bless you.
Thank you for your encouraging comment. Vulnerability isn’t always easy, but it is the only way to love. I hope we both grow in about ability to speak the truth of our hearts. Bless you!
Thank you so much for this! God has been doing a similar work in my life over the past couple of years, and you have put words to what I have been learning so much better than I ever could have. Your statement about how “a stone tablet can never love you back” particularly resonates with me. It’s just something heavy to carry around with me.
YES! It is something heavy to carry around! That is profound. Thanks for pointing that out!!!
Diane Thiel says
Gods timing with this is yet anothet miracle. Thank you for speaking the words of grace and validating my heart. I have been going through this valley my whole life. Thank God for His unfailing love always gently there and when i surrendered and took His hand. Thank you for your courage sister and thank you for letting me share with you a walk i do daily. Gods blessings to you always
You aren’t walking alone. Some days I think I’m at the starting line again with these rules of my heart. But I know I’m not. It just takes a long time for change. Love to you!
K Ann Guinn says
Wow. Thanks for sharing your experience and this good counsel that I need to consider and learn.
Lauren Griesmeyer says
I have lived by the rules always be nice and don’t offend people and always be polite and always wear a smile! And others! They have done nothing to further my cause! Thanks for validating that I need to let go of those things and just be me! It’s hard to be a people pleaser! Thank God that he shoulders all the responsibility! Thanks for a nice post! God bless! Lauren
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
Yes some rules are meant to be broken. You don’t like braking them at that the time. But you can’t let some people rule over your life. Keep telling you what do giving you a set rules to live by. As they might not be right for your life. You have to go Jesus and his rule book the Bible plus prayer. See what he says listen too the Holy Spirit. See what they say too do. As sometimes them and there rules are meant well but they could be leaning you down the wrong path. So reading God word the Bible and prayer and really listing to the Holy spirit. As to what to do is the best guidance of all. If the rules that have to be broken and you have to go with Gods word and what the Holy spirit tell you. You have to break the thoes rules. They may not like you for it. But you will find out in the end you did the right thing. God will honor you for it. Don’t be scared. Doing what God tell you do. He will equip you to do it. At the time you might not feel good about it. But days or weeks later when you look back at it. You will be glad you listen to Gods Holy spirit and done what it said even if meant breaking some rules. Even if some people were not pleased with you at the time. They will in the end see why you broke their rules and done it your way. You can tell them if saved you listened to God and done what he said and had his Holy spirit guide you. You had to break their rules even though at the time you didn’t like doing so. Excellent reading today. Love and God Bless Dawn Ferguson-Little
Yes! Yes! Yes! You get it and you address it with sound advice. I’m so glad you wrote this! Many thanks and much love- from one conflict-avoider to another. Thank you.
Becky Keife says
“When the temptation to control another person’s emotional experience arises, I slowly and nervously hand that person back to Christ. Only God can heal them, protect them, and hold them. I can come beside them in love, but I am not responsible to manage all of their emotions.” Wow. Full stop. There is power and freedom and truth here.
Thank you, friend, for sharing so openly.
Beth Williams says
Sometimes we tend to be a little Pharisee like in keeping all the rules. We judge ourselves harshly if even one rule is broken. But God doesn’t see it that way. He sent His son to abolish those rules. He is more concerned about the our hearts & soul than about keeping rules & regulations. We need to be more forgiving & extend grace to ourselves. He wants a relationship with us. He came to give us life to the full. We should enjoy our lives not be bound by stupid rules that we ourselves make. Some thou shalt’s that people need to break are how long to pray, & how much to read in Bible daily. God doesn’t care about those things. He does want us in the word & talking with Him daily. It needs to be a pleasurable experience for us. Let’s all strive to have a relationship with Jesus & not worry about rules.
I think most of us christian gals actually have these unspoken rules we must live by..certainly not imposed by God or our faith but us trying to be perfect.
I fell away from that in my late 30s when I realized no matter how good..kind..nice..giving I was the world didn’t care ! I worked so hard on being perfect based on my own commandments that I ended up so hurt when others didn’t play by the same rules. why would they ? they didn’t scale themselves the same as me and so people hurt me and I ended up so disappointed in friends. God made us all unique…we aren’t supposed to build rules around ourselves or try to be perfect.
I live each day knowing who I am & what I stand for but look at others with more grace. I find now my friends hold a new respect for me and see the real me.
throw out the self made commandments and live each day with freedom to love yourself and spend time with God.
Kimberly Coney says
Thank you so much for your words. It is so hard to take ownership of others emotions and feelings. I have done that all my life with girlfriends and even my own daughter(whole other animal there lol). I am a fixer and hate to see anyone upset especially at me. But I know that sometimes the best I can do is not say anything and ask God to help me to walk away and pray for their emotions and feelings to calm down. I pray for peace within myself as well. Many blessings ladies.
You are a gift, Anjuli, and these words are gold.
WOW-WOW and WOW
I can’t thank you enough for this.
What a blessing you have been to me and so many!
May God richer bless you and those you love, for what you have shared.
I am sorry you are feeling pain, it’s horrible. But one of the biggest lessons I learnt and the most freeing is my self worth (people pleaser and wanting people to like me) is NOT wrapped up in how others see me. They do not have that much power. This is similar I think to what you talk of breaking those laws of our heart that we live by. I am worthy and so are you…giving it all to Jesus is all we can do.
Thank you! I decided to dive more deeply into this and realized the scripture referenced is actually Jeremiah 31:33 (not 13:33). Thank you for the prompt to think and learn about this more in my own life.
Your words always bless me. Love you friend!