AS A COACH SPECIALIZING IN EMOTIONAL STRENGTH, I work mainly with women who are "too nice", the kind of person who bends herself backwards to please other people, who has a hard time setting boundaries, who never puts her needs in front of others, who doesn't know how to say "no".
From my experience, this pattern is much more common among women... and especially Christian women. The reasons are not difficult to guess: as women we are often raised to "be nice", "smile", "don't make others feel bad" and as Christians we are asked to "turn the other cheek", "forgive 7 times 70 times", "give to the one who asks you". The combination of the two is a dangerous concoction that leads women to become "too nice", be easily taken advantage of, and put up with absolutely unacceptable behavior... in other words, to become a doormat.
I have asked myself: is this really the behavior that God wants us to display? Is this what he meant? Because I've seen many people who have followed this path only to end up being taken completely for granted by everyone around them, living miserably, and being a bad example of a Christian.
To solve the mystery, I turned to Jesus' life. Jesus was the one who spoke these words. He was/is love incarnated. To follow his example is our goal. Let's scrutinize his life. How did he interpret these commands? How did he live his life on Earth?
When we read the Scriptures, we realize that Jesus was someone who was highly respected by all. No one took him for granted. No one could manipulate him. No one could make him do something he didn't want to do. No one controlled him.
When he sensed that someone was asking him a question with the sole purpose of manipulating him, he wouldn't answer it. He would simply say: if you answer this question of mine, then I'll answer yours. He was not naive.
When he was called to hurry up and go heal his friend Lazarus, he didn't. He continued on this path and went there when he felt God wanted him to go. Jesus was not afraid to say "no".
When the Pharisees taunted him he called them "hypocrites" to their faces. When some people came to him to tell him that Herodes wanted to kill him, he called Herodes a "fox". He was not afraid of confronting people, even insulting them! He was not a people-pleaser.
When the merchants were using the temple for business purposes, he formed a whip, drove them out, overturned their tables, spilt their coins on the floor and called them "robbers". He could act with fierce determination. He was not a doormat.
When the crowd was ready to stone him for the words he had spoken, Jesus did not stay there and allowed them to hurt him. Instead, he disappeared. He could set limits. He did not put up with abuse.
I could cite many other examples, but that will be for further installments.... :-)
The only time that Jesus did allow the crowd to hurt him, to whip him, to slap him, to spit on him, and even to kill him, was at his crucifixion. And only because this was part of his mission, to die on the cross, to be humiliated and beaten. It had a very specific purpose. It was not because he was a weak person who could not stand up for himself or because he was afraid of disappointing people.
He was authentic, true to himself, and incredibly strong. Emotionally and spiritually.
So, next time someone tells you: "oh, but you are a Christian, you should not behave that way", tell them: "because I'm a Christian I will not tolerate disrespect, abuse or manipulation". I can live without your approval!