Confusing Being Responsible with Being Faithful

Do you carry an over developed sense of responsibility? When I feel overwhelmed or weary, I usually discover I’m feeling responsible for something beyond my control. For example, my desire to do a good job can subtly turn into pressure to make someone happy or not disappoint them. The desire to do good work is admirable. However, the goal to make them happy will drive you crazy.

The #desire to do good work is admirable. However, the #goal to make them happy will drive you crazy. Share on X

The Difference Between a Goal and a Desire

In order to help us understand where our responsibilities end and other people’s begin, some thought leaders have delineated between a goal and a desire.

A Goal is something you want, and you control the means to reach it.

A Desire is something you want, but you don’t have control of all the variables to reach it. You need the cooperation of other people or circumstances to achieve it.

For example, let’s say you plan a special picnic for your family. You get up early to shred cheese for their favorite pimento cheese sandwiches. You hum as you spread your concoction onto slices of homemade bread. The picture of your family enjoying the fruit of your labor brings a smile as you pack a lovely quilt and colorful paper goods.

An hour before you leave, your son’s friend calls to invite him to the pool. He’s spent time with his friend but not with the family. You tell him he can go next time. Today is family time. Disappointment oozes out of his pores. His body comes to the picnic, but not his heart.

You take a deep breath and hand out lunch on fanciful paper plates. Your daughter whines, “I don’t like this kind of bread.”

You sigh. At least you have homemade chocolate chip cookies.

But when your son grabs the bag of cookies, the ones you stayed up to midnight to bake, he says they are alive. To your dismay, the seal on the bag is not tight and ants have found your cookies. Now you’re ready to cry!

Did you fail? Was your effort a complete waste? That depends.

If your goal was to make them happy, then yeah, you failed. They aren’t happy.

But if your goal was to love your family, then, well done! You are a success.

Learn from Jesus

Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls’” (Matt. 11:28-29 NLT).

Jesus is gentle with us. If we learn from Him, we’ll be gentle with ourselves too. He doesn’t hold us responsible for things that lay outside our control. So, neither should we.

Any goal that requires someone else’s cooperation can be blocked by those people. God doesn’t hold you responsible for what you can’t control. He asks us to be faithful to Him.

God doesn’t measure success by how things appear but by how we live. When we love God and others through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can leave the results to God and know He is pleased with us. And who knows, our faithfulness to trust God in the presence of disappointment may be our greatest witness to a watching family and world.

Comment here.



Two July summits and a book:

  • Rebound Your Highest: Come back stronger after the struggle.
    Check out the other speakers’s topics. I’ll be speaking on “How to Turn Messy Emotions into Mighty Faith.” Register here.




by Henry Cloud and John Townsend




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  1. Ann Musico

    Oh boy what a great reminder for me today, Debbie. The distinction is so important. Thank you for sharing and doing it in such a clear and wonderful way.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Thank you, Ann. That sense of feeling responsible is a sure joy killer.

  2. Brenda Flowers

    Debbie, I related deeply to this post. Thank you for your encouragement to
    trust God in the face of disappointments.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Thank you, Brenda!

  3. Geneva

    Thank you for this message. It is one I need over and over again because I want/think I can control everything and really I have no control.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Geneva, you aren’t alone!

  4. J.D. Wininger

    Amen Ms. Debbie. I too pray that I may become as gentle a teacher as God is as I help my family and friends define and move toward their goals and desires. Wonderful thoughts this week ma’am. God’s blessings!

    • Debbie Wilson

      Thank you, J.D.!

  5. Melissa Henderson

    I am thankful we can go to God with our burdens. We do not have to carry the load alone. Thank you for this inspiring message.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Me too, Melissa. Thanks!

  6. Robin L.

    This post reminds me of Romans 12:3, which says that we should not think of ourselves too highly. Feeling responsibility for others’ happiness can lead to placing too much important and control on ourselves. We may feel that we are the center of situations; everyone and everything is focused on us, depending on us. You make a good point about goal vs. desire.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Robin, I like how you applied Romans 12:3 to that. Really good application.

  7. Theresa Boedeker

    Oh Debbie, I love these definitions. So often we are taking responsibility for something we have no control over. This was so simple but powerful.

    • Debbie Wilson

      It can creep up on us and we not realize it until we’re feeling overwhelmed. At least it happens to me that way. Thanks, Theresa.

  8. Theresa Boedeker

    Your speech topic sounds like something we all need.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Theresa, I’m real excited about both of these topics. I love passing on what has helped me.

  9. Deborah D. Crawford

    Thanks for sharing your heart-felt experience. I can so relate and was so encouraged by your post. God is so faithful. Our witness will point others to Him.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Yes it will! Thanks, Deborah!

  10. Joanna Eccles

    This blessed me so much. I have someone I have been striving to no avail to make happy. It has become rather crushing to try so hard and continue to fail. Thanks for reminding me that if I am doing my work as until the Lord, then He is pleased with me, even if the other person is not. I need to look for God’s approval and recognize that I can’t control how someone else reacts. I needed this a lot. Thank you.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Joanna, that’s tough when we care so much and can’t break through. Paul’s words in Gal. 1:10 and 1 Cor. 4:3-4 have encouraged me.

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