Confession: I am a recovering people pleaser. When I feel I disappointed someone or I think someone may not be happy with me, a giant knot forms in my stomach. I have a tendency to feel I need to make everybody happy. Honestly, it’s exhausting. Thankfully, the Lord convicts me and teaches me about this, which is why I confessed that I am a recovering people pleaser.
As I talk with people and get to know them, I find many of us deal with this desire to people please on some level. We have a fierce, inward battle going on to please man. In his kindness, the Lord taught me to dig down to the root of this problem, and then to preach the gospel to myself when that knot begins to form. The desire to people please is actually the fruit of a much deeper issue in our hearts. To truly be pruned of this sin, we must dig down to the root what is giving life to it.
Usually, at the root of people pleasing are two things- pride and fear of man. When I fear someone won’t like something I said or did, I worry their view of me might change. Insecurity rises up within me, and I want people to maintain a “good” view of me for the sake of myself. This all boils down to pride, which is ugly and very much the opposite of how Christ calls us to live. The other issue typically at the root of people pleasing is fear of man. Similar to the issue with pride, I become fearful of what man’s response to something, like a negative reaction or criticism. Because man is what I can see right in front of me in the here and now, I forget that my fear should be rightly placed in God. We are called to fear God not because he is scary or out to get us, but because he is holy, and we should live in awe of him. Paul puts it beautifully in Galatians 1:10 when he says, “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Oh what good, convicting questions to search our hearts as we face this inward battle!
We must realize these sins under the surface and confess them. Praise God that he is faithful and just to forgive us of all our unrighteousness (1 John 1:9)! Unfortunately, because we are still in the flesh, we may still wrestle with these sins and temptations. Once we know our sin tendencies, though, we can go on the offense. We use the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God to slay the thoughts of people pleasing and untie that knot in our stomach.
If it is a situation where I have sinned or done wrong, the Spirit reminds me of Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”. Yes, I need to confess that sin and make amends, but then I can rest knowing I am not condemned. When the Father looks at me, he sees me clothed in the righteousness of Jesus. I trust in what David says in Psalm 23:6, that surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life (not shame and guilt!).
There are times, though, when I honestly haven’t done wrong in a situation, yet I still feel that knot forming. Thankfully, the Spirit gives Scripture to meditate on in those times as well. My mind often needs the reminder of what my aim should be, which is to “try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:10). Is what I am doing/saying/thinking pleasing to the Lord? If the answer is yes, then I can be at peace. My only aim is to please the Lord, not other people. Will other people be pleased as we please the Lord? Most definitely! Pleasing the Lord means we will be kind to one another. It means we will be forgiving and eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit. It means we will be putting others’ needs ahead of our own. Yes, people will be blessed by this! However, there could be some that don’t agree with things we do in the Lord. That’s okay, and that is between that person and the Lord. Our aim is to please Jesus and let him take care of the rest.
There is a Scripture I pray when I feel the temptation to people-please comes. Colossians 3:15 says, “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful”. Indeed, trying to please people means I am allowing others’ opinions and thoughts rule my heart. I have created an idol because the only thing that should rule my heart is Christ. When Christ rules my heart, the beautiful outcome is his peace. This verse has been and will continue to be my prayer. Oh, Lord, let YOUR peace rule my heart and nothing else!
The Lord also reminds me of his command in Philippians 4:6, to not be anxious about anything. I find that people-pleasing usually comes with a side of anxiousness (hence the knot). This verse reminds me to put this to death because this is of my old-self, which was crucified with Christ. Paul continues in verse six with a command to present our requests with thanksgiving to God. In moments of anxiousness, I lay my worries and struggles at the feet of Jesus knowing he will care for them. John 17:17 reminds my heart that God’s Word is truth, meaning these Scriptures I have shared and all others) are what is true, not others’ opinions of me. Through the Spirit, this verse empowers me to dwell on what Philippians 4:8 commands us to dwell on – what is honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise.
Sometimes I feel like this people pleasing thing is a thorn in my side like Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians 12. Though we will never be rid of sin on this side of eternity, we can rest in the Lord’s response to Paul – “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9). No, it is not that we should glory in our sin, but our sin and struggles can cause us to boast more in Christ’s power and our need for him. When we see we are weak in areas, we can rely on Christ to be strong for us. As we battle to put to death what is earthly in us, we rest in the grace upon grace Christ freely gives and look forward to eternity when Christ will fully restore us. Ultimately, we rest in the gospel. When our lives are hidden in Christ, the Father is already as pleased with us as he can be. Praise God that we don’t have to do certain things to please him and earn his love, but instead we have the opportunity to live lives that are pleasing to him out of thanksgiving for his salvation! May we spur one another on to live lives pleasing to the Lord and glorifying to him!