The Curse of the Overly Responsible Person

It is such a huge burden when you are the only responsible person in the room.  Why can’t everyone around you just see how much work you have to do all day long?  If only this person would do this and that person would do that then everything would be fine.  But no, instead you have to do this and that because no one else will do it and it must be done.  While doing everyone else’s work is tiring and can provoke you to anger, secretly you actually enjoy being the person who gets it all done.  After all, if this person did this and that person did that then how can you be admired for all the extra work you do?

The curse of being overly responsible is that without irresponsible people around, how can you be overly responsible?  This means that at some level you actually get satisfaction from being overly responsible or you would not keep doing it.  So, what does it mean to be overly responsible?  It means that you take on more responsibility for things or people to the point of excluding others from taking on their own responsibility.  This exclusion sometimes comes if the form of criticism for how a task was accomplished.  For instance, say you were at a budget meeting where everyone was to analyze their own areas and then present suggestions at a meeting.  You may not like the manner in which one person chooses to complete the task claiming that it is insufficient.  Instead of teaching them how to do the task, you find it easier to “just to it myself so that it is done right”.  This is overly responsible behavior and you are driving everyone around you crazy.  So what can you do?

Stop taking on other’s tasks.  No matter how hard this is, you must stop doing things for other people just because it is “easier”, they won’t do it “right”, or you are just trying to “help”.  Pretending to “help” someone out by doing something for them when they are responsible for doing it is NOT helping either them or you.  The only thing you accomplish by “helping” is creating an unnecessary and unhealthy dependency which ultimately only serves to feed your ego.  Your ego likes to be “needed” because that is where you get your self-worth from but this is not healthy.  A positive self-worth comes from understanding your value in Christ not comparing your value to that of another person.

Stop comparing yourself to others.  At a much deeper level, when you take on another person’s tasks you are saying that you are better than them.  Being better or being more responsible than others sets you apart from the crowd and allows you to stand out but this is not servant leadership, rather it is self-motivated leadership.  Everyone has their own journey to follow, in their own time.  By insisting that a person be at the same level as you, you are really saying that you know better where they should be rather than allowing them to follow their own journey.   Sometimes, a person has to suffer the consequences of their own decision in order to make better decisions going forward.

Stop saving others.  There is only one Savior, Jesus Christ, and you are not it.  By focusing on other people’s issues, you steal energy away from caring for yourself and then begin to see this process as a sacrifice you make for them.  The problem is that the sacrifice has already been made in Christ and He doesn’t need you to sacrifice yourself for others.  Rather you need to offer your life as a living sacrifice to Him.  Jesus will save them.  You can pray, encourage, guide, teach, and love but you are NOT to save them.  This is why you become angry when someone does not appreciate your “help” because you are really trying to “save” them and it isn’t working.

There is a small verse in Galatians 6:5, “For we are each responsible for our own conduct”.  You are responsible for your conduct and you will receive the rewards or consequences of your behavior.  Others are responsible for their conduct and they will receive the rewards or consequences of their behavior.  Being overly responsible is not being godly; it is trying to take the place of God in the life of others.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at

How to overcome the need to please others

Do you get enjoyment out of anticipating someone’s need which you think will make them happy and then investing time meeting that need without being asked?  Do you often feel drained of your energy but keep working anyway because they need you to help?  Do you spend countless moments replaying conversations and rehearsing new ones trying desperately to figure out what someone else wants?  If so, you may have an unhealthy need to please others.

There is a difference between a healthy need to please others and an unhealthy need to please others.  A healthy need is not dependant on a particular response.  For instance, if you clean the garage because you know it will be helpful to the family but are not expecting any help or compliments in response, then you have a healthy need to please others.  On the other hand, if while you are cleaning the garage you are thinking about how your teenage son should be helping you and looking forward to your wife praising your work, then you have an unhealthy need to please others.  The former response has less anxiety while the later response has greater anxiety.  But there is hope.

Less expectations.  Your self-talk is extremely powerful as you will reap what you sow even if it is only to yourself.  If you expect a praise from a boss for a job well done and do not get it, then you might begin the negative self-talk such as “I’m not good enough” or “They don’t appreciate me”.  This in turn increases your job dissatisfaction, creates unnecessary tension at work, and causes you to become angry.  Instead, do a good job because you like to do a good job and you care about the quality of your work, not because you are looking for praise.  By having less expectation on your boss’ opinion, you will gain freedom from living your life to please others.

More down time.  The tighter your schedule the more likely it is that you have taken on excessive responsibility.  If you find yourself unable to say “No” to a new project or activity, unable to delegate responsibility fully to others regardless of the outcome, or unable to let something go then you most likely are running on empty.  Everyone needs down time and at least one day a week should be spent doing something relaxing or having a Sabbath.  Practice saying “No” to new projects until old ones are completed, give an assignment away to someone else and gain a better perspective on the value of down time.

No rescuing.  When someone needs help it is easy to step in and help them, after all they need it and you get to feel good about giving the help.  While offering help is good, rescuing is quite another matter; the difference is in your actions.  A familiar saying is, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.  Teach him to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”  If you are helping someone by doing their work for them, then you are rescuing.  If you are helping someone by teaching them how to do it for themselves, then you are truly helping.  The irony of the matter is that by rescuing someone you increase the possibility of resentment on both of your parts whereas if you help them you have made a friend.

Overcoming the need to please others is difficult and takes time and practice.  By using the three steps above and reviewing them regularly, you can begin the process of pleasing yourself instead of others.  In the end, the boundaries that you set for yourself will far outweigh any negative consequences of not pleasing other people.  After all, most of them are too worried about pleasing others too.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at