Am I Responsible for Their Happiness?

by Debbie Wilson @DebbieWWilson

The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.                                                                                                            1 Thessalonians 5:24 NIV

The tendency to confuse faithfulness with responsibility runs deep in my DNA.

I did not distinguish between those things when putting a Saturday women’s conference together for our church. My intent was to minister to the women who attended our Sunday School class. So when I learned how many additional women were registering, I began to worry. Why were they coming? What were they expecting? This wasn’t an event I’d spent months planning. I hadn’t even promoted it but for a notice in the bulletin.

When I feel overwhelmed, I usually discover I’m feeling responsible for something beyond my control. My desire to minister to the women at the conference had morphed into a burden to make them happy. The pressure to meet their unknown expectations was stealing my joy. It was all on me.

The Difference Between a Goal and a Desire

In order to help us understand where our responsibilities end, 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 control the variables to reach it. You need the cooperation of other people and/or circumstances for your desired result to happen.

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

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 say, “Next time. Today is family time.” Disappointment oozes out of his pores. His body comes to the picnic, but not his heart.

At lunch you hand your daughter her sandwich on a paper plate decorated with her favorite cartoon character. She whines, “I don’t like this bread.”

At least you have homemade chocolate chip cookies.

Your son grabs the cookies, the ones you stayed up to midnight to bake, and says, “Mom, they’re moving!” To your dismay, the seal wasn’t tight. Ants march through your cookies.

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

If your goal was to make them happy, then yeah, you failed. No one’s happy. But if your goal was to love your family, then, well done! Big success.

Learn from Jesus

Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29 NIV).

Jesus’ assignments aren’t heavy burdens, when we live yoked to Him. He’s gentle. If we learn from Him, we’ll be gentle with ourselves too. Any goal that requires someone else’s cooperation can be blocked by them. God doesn’t hold us responsible for what we can’t control. He asks us to be faithful—to Him.

God doesn’t measure success by how things appear but by how we trust Him. When I realized the source of my anxiety before the conference, I was able to let it go. I only had to be faithful to do my part in the power of the Holy Spirit and leave the results to Him.

Am I Responsible for Their Happiness? – insight from @DebbieWWilson on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author: Drawing from her walk with Christ, and years as a Christian counselor, coach, and Bible teacher, Debbie W. Wilson helps women give themselves a break so they can enjoy fruitful and grace-filled lives. She is the author of Little Women, Big Godand Give Yourself a Break. Her latest book, Little Faith, Big God, was released in February 2020.

Little Faith, Big God: Grace to Grow When Your Faith Feels Small by [Wilson, Debbie]

She and her husband Larry founded and run Lighthouse Ministries, a nonprofit counseling, coaching, and Bible study ministry. She is an AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association) certified speaking and writing coach. Debbie enjoys a good mystery, dark chocolate, and the antics of her two standard poodles. Refresh your faith with free resources at

Join the conversation: Have you ever found yourself stressing over what is beyond your control? What happened?