When It’s Hard to Say What You Want

by | Jun 18, 2012 | Uncategorized

I have a hard time saying what I want. It’s been that way for as long as I can remember. I marvel at those who can unashamedly declare what they want or need without any inhibition or influence from others. I just didn’t come with that gene. However, I’m learning.

The red armrests of our chairs touch each other as H and I take some time to steal away on Father’s Day, push our toes into sand and talk. I’m reading him this excerpt from chapter eight in Grace for the Good Girl when I have this revelation about hiding behind my comfort zone:

“As a kid, I was too concerned about making the ‘right’ choice, the choice that would please the most people. I did not give myself permission to make the fun choice when the outcome didn’t matter . . . . I weigh, I consider, I balance and reconsider. I obsess over what they would do, what he would want, or what she would think of me. It is easy to blame it on responsibility or grown-up-ness or consequences, or to claim it as wisdom and experience. But I think it has more to do with fear.”

As I read these words, I recall a time from adolescence. I’m standing in Famous Barr with my grandma while she buys a new dress. I look at books and toys on an end cap and when she is finished, she notices that I am engrossed in something I found. Instead of asking her if I can have the book, I just keep turning the pages, hoping she might buy it for me. She finally does.

This becomes a pattern- receiving affirmation for not asking for what I want– not just by her but other adults too. Then it begins to feel wrong, pretentious, demanding, and ungrateful to say what I want out loud. So I don’t, unless someone asks. And when someone does ask, it feels like I need to dislodge a boulder from my larynx to find the words.

I share this story, my revelation, and it cracks open the door of understanding for H. Why I have a hard time saying what I want.

Because being forthcoming about needs and desires is like stepping on the stage of risk and rejection – naked. And that feels scary uncomfortable. It’s probably why I have a hard time asking people to like my Facebook page or follow this blog.

I am asking myself the question Emily asks us in her book.  What would it look like if I allowed Jesus himself to determine my comfort zone?

Maybe it starts with cooking brussel sprouts for yourself when no one else in the family likes them, or going for a walk on the beach when everyone else is too tired or deciding on the red dress when everyone else likes the black one, just because you like it the best. Maybe it looks like quitting a paid writing job to follow a dream.

I close my Kindle at a high-pitched voice yelling “grandma” over the roar of waves. A gangly young boy pleads with his grandma to come and swim. She sits under umbrella, book in her lap.    

“Your mom will come in with you,” she retorts behind us, but it seems he is deaf to her reply. He continues telling her she needs to swim while running in circles, diving into water like grabbing home plate for the score.

A few minutes later, she hobbles into the ocean in a marble-y blue one-piece and grabs his outstretched hand. She lifts him, knees up to his chest, over waves five feet high. Her thin grey hair soaks and she stands sturdy in repetitive breakers. They eventually swim holding hands, rolling over waves in tandem.

And sitting there under a sky of sun, He shows me what freedom looks like in a boy who asks and a grandma who loves him more than she wants to sit comfortable.  It’s how Jesus loves us too.

Don’t bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This isn’t a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we’re in. ~Matthew 7:7, Message

So now, I’ll ask you.  What would it look like if you allowed Jesus to determine your comfort zone?


 I’m counting thanks with Ann too, because its Multitudes on Mondays and there is so much to be thankful for.

  • For a husband who cares about what is important to me and loves me, despite my weaknesses.
  • A week for just the two of us while Harrison is off to camp and Murielle on mission in Jamaica.
  • A suitcase loaded full under fifty pounds.
  • My girls heart, the way she loves Jesus and others unselfishly.
  • The way she fed her brother and his friends lunch and got everything cleaned up before I came home. Smiling on the couch, proud of her productivity.
  • A dinner party with friends that filled us all up with joy.

Linking with Playdates with God, Soli Deo Gloria, On Your Heart Tuesday, Just Write

Subscribe for Shelly’s stories and free resources here: https://shellymillerwriter.com/free-resources/


  1. tara pohlkotte

    oh, shelly. how my heart understands this – – how i am almost 30 and i am finally. FINALLY! whispering what i want outloud. even now good gracious it is uncomfortable. it is unseemly to me to be this exposed. to be this laid bare. there is so much freedom not only in the asking, but in the trusting that other people love us enough to want to hear our desires. big hug to you on this journey.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Well, its nice to know I’m not the only one. You youngin’ you! 🙂 I think (and hope) that we are constantly growing up in Him aren’t we? We never arrive until we meet him face to face and there is solace in that for me. I think that is the hardest part for me, believing that people love us enough to want to hear our desires. I have parents that don’t and when the ones who gave birth to you don’t care, its hard to believe anyone else would. I’m growing in that though, I am. Love you sweet Tara, you are such a gift you know that?

      • tara pohlkotte

        ha. i feel as though i’ve been living for much longer then my years suggest somehow 🙂 you know – you hit on something important i know for me and my {imperfect} journey through these good girl waters… i, detest {self} failure. in any form. and somehow i felt as though by saying it outloud, and then later deciding i didn’t want that, or i wasn’t good at that or whatever the reason would be that i would change directions, that it equates with failure. but i am just opening my arms to the fact now, that we will always be growing. our needs and wants changing. waiting to be perfect before you speak is going to leave a lot unsaid and a lot of life unlived… face to face. sigh. what a concept and hope. love you too, darlin’. so thankful for our friendship.

  2. Sharon O

    There is such a fine line between ‘what I want’ and what is the responsible thing to do. Both sides are worth looking at. Growing up I was not one to announce ‘needs’ for when one is raised in a ‘home full’ of conditions and hurt, needs are not safe. On the other hand when our dad left when I was four, ‘he wanted’ his freedom which was not good for the whole. Two sides, Asking and receiving in a good healthy way. Demanding ‘what I need’ in a not healthy way.
    I still don’t know what to do with the middle even at age 57. Thank for giving me ‘something to think about’.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I think I have had a hard time letting go of responsible and having fun. I often say I was born an adult, skipped carefree childhood. And I think there is a difference between demanding and letting our needs be known. I know what you mean, it is often a hard thing to find the middle of balance. But I trust He will show us how when we ask Him.

  3. Ells....ro elliott

    Oh…how I know this one…always questioning if everything I might want is just selfish…and the asking…and for me receiving…gifts…compliments use to be so hard. The more I am learning…really knowing how much I am Loved by HIm…I can ask…I can receive and i can trust all His answers…I was at the beach this past week…what a blessings to be able to go and sit when you need too…I find the ocean very therapeutic.
    Oh enjoy this special time…just the 2…those are gifts:) blessings to you as you…me…let God stretch us in His love…to live in His comfort not ours~

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I remember sitting on the floor with girlfriends looking at their dog-earred bridal magazines and just not being able to go there. It felt presumptuous to pick out what I wanted for my wedding. When I did get engaged, I had no clue. Thankfully I have a loving, Godly mother in law who helped me identify what I wanted. And I can honestly say I am finding freedom with being able to say what I want . . .one step at a time.

  4. Beth

    I have this problem. I’ve worked on it for years and it’s improving, but it’s sort of hard-wired from my childhood too. It came to my attention most in contrast to my husband. He is very direct about what he wants and sometimes gets upset with the way I backhandedly ask for what I “might, kind of want, well, no, that’s too much to ask of you, isn’t it?” Thanks for sharing about your struggle and how you are finding your voice, Shelly!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I think we are made of the same cloth Beth and our husbands sound the same too. So thankful I have a decisive, confident man who knows what he wants. And my kids are the same, for which I am very grateful.

  5. Pam@Writing...Apples of Gold

    Wow, I can relate to this. Not so much that I have trouble asking God for things… but it’s more of a relational thing with friends. I tried to explain to one married friend recently how difficult it has become for me as a single to call someone up for spur of the moment activity, when most likely the answer will be “no, I can’t right now, but another day or week or month…” It feels like rejection sometimes, and I’ve sort of cocooned myself with the decision not to put myself in that situation, but to ask for a time in the future. She didn’t understand and was hurt, took it offensively, misunderstanding me. I think it does come back to not wanting to offend or worrying too much over what pleases, etc. from childhood, as you mentioned. Interesting Message translation on that verse, too! Food for thought… thanks for sharing a vulnerable side of yourself, Shelly.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I’ve really enjoyed this book. She goes on in that same chapter telling about a woman who gives up what she wants for her new husband. If you haven’t read it yet, you may enjoy Grace for the Good Girl. I am re-reading it and getting more out of it the second time actually. I know what you mean about putting yourself out there and being misunderstood. I find myself often making assumptions about others that are not correct, reading more or less into situations. And really, when I am fully myself, dependent on Him for the outcome, I find freedom in that. It’s a learned behaviour, something that I have grown in with practice, not something innate.

      • Pam@Writing...Apples of Gold

        Yes, I’ll check that book out! Thanks… I think I’m always bending over backwards to be understanding of others or trying to be a jump ahead on what they might be thinking too, and sort of basing how much to be forthright on that…which sometimes results in making wrong assumptions too. All coming back to that same sort of insecurity we knew as kids, I guess. The book sounds enlightening…

  6. Diana Trautwein

    Oh, man, can I relate to this one. Why do we think that relying on others to read our minds is somehow less…umm….obnoxious?? than actually saying what we want out loud? It is SO HARD for me to speak what I want. And then I get resentful and snippy and just sorta not nice to be around. Sigh. Thanks for the insight and the reminder that we are not called to be doormats – and our loved ones are not called to be mind-readers. :>)

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Oh me too Diana. Early in my marriage this was a continual source of conflict. I thought he should read my mind because I didn’t think I needed to express what I wanted or needed and then I would get resentful and snippy as you say it. Thankfully, it isn’t that way anymore but it took way to long to get to that place.

  7. Joan

    Shelly – I certainly relate to this post. I struggle with the balance of “building a platform” and worrying that people think I’m trying to draw attention to myself. For this reason, it’s hard for me to ask for followers and for people to like my Facebook page. A few years ago, the Lord spoke to me and told me that if I wanted to be a writer, I would have to get out of my comfort zone.

    “What would it look like if you allowed Jesus to determine your comfort zone?” Wow, I need to think on this one.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Yes, being a writer means putting yourself out there, being exposed and less private. I’ve noticed that being a common denominator in all good writers. I suppose comfortable is highly over-rated anyway isn’t it?

      • Joan

        I agree – comfortable can easily lead to complacency and that is somewhere I don’t want to be!


  8. simplystriving

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Shelly. We are soul sisters. I’ve done this dance so long I convinced myself I was indecisive. When really it’s fear. Just like Emily says. I fear my decision wouldn’t be the one someone else would make and it matters more to me that they’re happy. not me. Can I whisper a secret to you? I’ve been working on it. It’s why I chose intentional as my one word this year. and I’m shocked at the results. My husband is blown away. He’s so proud of me for not bending when I should be stretching. Reaching high to the only opinion I should be concerned with…

    and your gift list made my heart swell. so proud of your kiddos!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      It’s exciting to stand back from fear and watch God do the work isn’t it? Your journey is inspiring Nikki. I can imagine your husband is blown away and he didn’t even have to do anything. Just stand back and watch you listen and follow. And thanks for being proud of my kids. I am one proud mama with each passing day and so aware that it is all grace, this raising kids to be follow Him.

  9. Tanya Marlow

    I can really relate to this!
    In the first few years of our marriage, I was really frustrated that my husband wasn’t showing love to me because he woudln’t ‘take my hints’. In the end, I confronted him with this, and he was like, ‘oh – if you want something, just ask!’

    So i began to – hesitantly at first, because I was always taught it was rude to ask for what you need (and even as I write that I’m aware of how dysfunctional it sounds…) Over the past decade I have got bolder, mainly due to the fact that my wonderful husband never resented me for asking him to do things, never held it over me, and rarely said no. It has been a really releasing and freeing thing for me, and I have become much better at identifying what I need and asking how to get it.

    That is a good thing – because now I am in a situation where my health depends upon saying to people, ‘I am too tired – I need you to leave now’ or ‘is there a chair I can sit on? I need to sit down now’. If I waited for people to take the hint, I would be risking a major relapse – and so unnecessarily!

    It was helpful to be reminded why I still hesitate on occasion to say what I need though – recently I told a friend what I really needed from her – and got rejected. It was really hard to hear, and I’m still smarting from it. Even so though, it was the right thing to do. I now know where I stand – and she has the right to say no, just as I have the right to ask. It’s still scary to do though…!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Oh yes, I so get this with your husband. You told my story too. I couldn’t muster up the courage to ask and he couldn’t read my mind and it was as simple as “just tell me what you need me to do” and that was that. I guess we make it harder on them that it needs to be. They really just need us to verbalize. Tanya, I am aware you have health issues but not sure if I missed you saying what they are. I would love to pray for you if you feel comfortable sharing. I can still pray without knowing details too, just curious. Thanks so much for sharing your heart here, it truly blessed me when I woke up to your comments this morning.

      • Tanya Marlow

        So glad to be a blessing!
        I have M.E. (also known in the US sometimes as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, though it is a woefully inadequate moniker for such a debilitating illness). It is a neurological/automimmune illness that feels a lot like my body has a ‘faulty battery’ and runs down really quickly. I need to spend much of the day in bed, and am virtually housebound.
        I blogged a bit about the illness here http://tanyamarlow.com/?p=675
        And this is my story about learning to trust God in the illness http://tanyamarlow.com/?p=248
        Any prayers muchly appreciated! How can I pray for you? I feel a real connection with you and I love your writing. Would love to know more of your story.

        • Redemption's Beauty

          Tanya, thanks for filling me in so I know how to pray for you. I will jump over and learn more from your posts, thanks so much for the links.
          You can pray that I will hear God with great clarity on a daily basis regarding all areas of life. Oh how I want to hear him over my own voices in my head! Thanks for asking and I have loved getting to know you, grateful really.

  10. kd sullivan

    This is so good, dear friend. I’m afraid that I was one of those “good girls” as well. I found that out after exiting a physically and verbally abusive marriage. Was I submissive, or was I just afraid? Now that I am married to a kind man, I have my answer…a little of both…but more of the later.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      So sorry you had to live through that Kim. I am sure your expereinces give you great compassion for others. So thankful for redemption in a kind man who loves you well. I know I am thankful for you and the way you communicate Christ.

  11. Deidra

    Loved this! Letting God determine my comfort zone – totally scary, but I’m learning to let go. He’s teaching me I can fully trust Him with every little thing, and that’s been a really big issue for me – trust. I’ve always tried to do it on my own, and failed miserably. I’m finding though, that there is actually comfort in letting it go, and now I’m starting to ask myself why I haven’t done it sooner. Thanks again for this beautiful post!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Yep, I get this Deidra. I had a hard time letting go of control when I got married. I just wasn’t used to someone taking care of me that way, I had to take care of myself from an early age. There is such freedom and comfort in letting go, I agree with you.

  12. caallyn

    Hi Shelly,
    this is me right down to the brussel sprouts. thankfully, Neil loves them…now if we could just get our new son to eat veggies.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Oh my, oh my, oh my, I am so excited to see you here today Celeste. I think an email is in order. We need to get caught up. So excited.

  13. illumylife by Joy

    A grandma that loves her child more than her comfort. What a beautiful image and definitely something I need to work on in my own life. Thanks for a beautiful post.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I know, me too. I didn’t even know her but her actions told me all I needed to know. Thanks for stopping by.

  14. Kelli Parker Becton

    Love love the “grandmother who loves him more than she wants to sit comfortably” – your pictures and thoughts are precious! thanks for sharing!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Kelli, so good to hear from you. Enjoyed visiting your place today too.

  15. Laura

    I love this story of the grandmother and her boy…it makes this point so loud and clear, doesn’t it? Your own story awakens similar memories, Shelly. I’m so grateful God’s mercies are new every morning.

  16. Gianna

    I love this post! do you know why?
    Because I am a very clueless person. Unless you tell me what you want, I will not figure it out. It has served me well at times and has cursed me at other times.
    However, I find myself being indirect. I don’t want to offend anyone. Or expect anything from anyone.
    But I totally hate this about myself. I want them to figure it out and when they don’t, I get all mad!
    Anyway, Jesus SAID, “Ask, and you will receive.” He didn’t say, “Hint and since I’m all knowing, I’ll catch on!”

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Love that last line in your comment Gianna, it made me smile and nod my head in agreement. It was fun to connect with you today, glad you came by.

  17. Lynn Morrissey

    Shelly, I thought that this quotation from one of my favorite 19c authors, Robert Louis Stevenson, is quite appropos to what you are saying: “To know what you prefer instead of humbly saying Amen to what the world tells you you ought to prefer, is to have kept your soul alive,” For me, lo these sixty years, a key to keeping my soul alive has been in being able to say no to others’ desires for me (like my darling daddy thinking I should become a French teacher) and in being able to distinguish between my wants and my needs. I also started to ask God what *His* desires were for my heart (ala Ps. 37). Frankly, with me, it has not always been so much a matter of expressing what I want as in *knowing* what I want to begin with. I have not always done so well in knowing. A number of years ago, before I started writing, I asked God to give me the desires of my heart–IOW, to put the desires *He* wanted me to have inside my soul. Left to myself, I would have never thought to write. (I was a vocal major! 🙂 He faithfully showed me His desires for my life, and then He began to fulfill them, one by one. May He fulfill His desires for *you,* sweet, soulful Shelly!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I have that same issue Lynn, not really knowing what I want. And I wonder if its because I haven’t allowed myself to express it, that the wants get buried too deep to excavate. And the same with writing. I was a marketing major. Never wrote an article, essay, story when I was hired to write by the instinct of my boss. I read every book I could find on writing. I’ve never even taken a class, workshop or conference. I probably should some day.

      • Lynn Morrissey

        Shelly, you’ve mentioned before that you don’t journal, but I think (if I might gently suggest it) that it would be a wonderful way to do some excavating. There is something about writing about your desires which will draw them out. God will help you unearth these with your pen. I recall your having said that you had not been trained as a writer. Certainly, particular conferences can be very useful. But if I may be so bold as to say so, you are a breathtakinly shimmering, authentically original writer. No one could have taught you that. Of course, *everyone* can certainly improve her writing (and as I said there are some excellent conferences around)….but in terms of your God-given, innate ability to express yourself with eloquence, transparency, and lyrical beauty–this is ALL of HIm, and it speaks to God’s power to work through you. He receives all the glory!

        • Redemption's Beauty

          I was looking at your book on Amazon tonight Lynn. I’d say you’re a bit of a pro when it comes to journaling. I will take your advice. And thank you for the kind words, it means so much coming from a published author, and someone so thoughtfully genuine as yourself. I don’t remember if I asked you before, but how did you find my blog?

  18. debra elramey (@elramey)

    Your writing has wings. I haven’t been to the beach in a couple of years now, but your words took me to the spot near the waves where a gangly young boy pleads with his grandma to come and swim. I can see the scene clear as day. I can hear the gulls, see you reading. But above all, I needed to hear the message. And you know what? I love your version here from The Message.
    Don’t bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This isn’t a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we’re in.
    It comes alive!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Thanks for the kind words about the writing. I do love that version of the verse too, it comes alive in a whole new way doesn’t it?

  19. Denise

    Your words touch my heart.

  20. Jenn (@SacredEveryday)

    Trying to let Jesus determine my comfort zone right now and it’s hard but at the same time so rewarding.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Jenn, I am right there with you, feeling uncomfortable. But I want to be set free in this area more than I want to be comfortable so I know its worth it. Thanks so much for stopping by from Chatting at the Sky. The book club has been great hasn’t it?

  21. Beth Hildebrand

    Love this post! I am just the same way as you (in many ways!) and the words you used were beautiful, perfect and what I needed to read. It’s really a challenge for me to say what I’m thinking…so this was encouraging…I am also learning because I’m putting more of my trust and hope in Jesus!

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