Well, there it is. I guess my secret is out. I am in fact, a people pleaser. This is not something that I’m proud of. It’s not the type of thing that I want people to know about me. In fact, most of the time, I don’t even like to admit it to myself. And yet, there it is. Despite my best efforts, it continues to come creeping back. This desire for others to like me. For others to be impressed by the way that I dress, cook, speak, etc. For them to think I’m cool. I even find myself being concerned with how others view my spiritual life.
About a month ago, I had an epiphany. I was reading Proverbs 31 and thinking about the woman in the passage and all of the amazing qualities that she possesses. But instead of asking myself if I actually possess these qualities, I found that I was actually asking myself if others thought that I had these qualities. That was a big moment for me. I thought, “Is this how I always think? About what others see instead of what the Lord sees, my heart?” I realized then that I am more concerned with what others see than what is actually in my heart. And that stopped me in my tracks.
People-pleasing is deadly. At first glance, it seems harmless. I mean, as Christians we’re supposed to conduct ourselves well and to live in harmony and to set an example for others. So it’s good for our lives to be pleasing, right? These things are good, but there is much danger in evaluating ourselves regularly based on the opinions of others. Because before we know it, their opinion matters more than God’s. We have committed idolatry, placing others above the Lord our God. It is a vicious cycle to leads to anxiety, jealousy, and dangerous pre-conceived notions.
People-pleasing also leads to a lot of self-comparison. Another word for this is ENVY. Because we are so concerned with the opinions of others, we find ourselves desiring qualities that others possess that we do not. Because we want to look good in front of others, we envy that a friend can eat whatever she wants and still maintain a size 2 figure. Because we want to be seen as a good cook, we envy the woman that gets to spend far more time in the kitchen than we do. We envy the clothes of others, the opportunities of others, the marriages of others. And the root of so much of it is the desire to appear like we have it all together.
So how do we fight it? We fight the urge to be people-pleasers by finding our joy in pleasing the only One whose opinion ultimately matters, God our Father. First, we retrain our minds to think like He does, to value the things that He values and the love the things that He loves. Romans 12:2 calls us to be transformed by renewing our minds. We must dive into the Bible so we can learn more and more about what is pleasing to God. Our minds must be renewed so we can strive for THOSE things.
Secondly, we actually have to fight. If we do not fight this sin, it will continue to spread. Without even thinking about it, we will succumb to the urge to look to the approval of others for our satisfaction instead of God’s approval. This means that when we are tempted to find our joy in the others’ approval or when we already are finding our joy there, we turn away from that and look to the Father instead. We fill our minds with the truth of Scripture. We stop thinking about what others are thinking and instead think about what would please Him. And most importantly, we ask the Lord for the strength to do this. In our own strength, we are powerless. But with His strength, victory is ours.
So there you have it. I am a people pleaser. But by God’s grace, I’m getting better. And so can you. Let’s stop looking to others to satisfy us and start looking to God, the one we were created to find satisfaction in.
“Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.”