I Can't Please Everyone
"Obviously, I'm not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ's servant." Galatians 1:10 (NLT)
I started texting four years ago when we hired Kortney, a 21-year-old, to help with our business. On the way to work one day, she texted me and asked if I wanted a coffee. I received her text, but labored to respond. Before I could finish typing my answer, she texted me a second and then a third time.
Finally I just gave up and called her. "Kortney," I said. "If you would stop texting me I could respond!" We laughed about it for weeks. Actually, I think she was laughing at me, but I enjoyed it too.
In our current culture, people expect us to respond to their requests with increasing speed and efficiency. Whether it's a call, text, email, instant message, or Facebook comment, there's an understanding ... no, an expectation ... that we will respond.
I'll admit I fall into this as well. It appeals to my need to be needed. Someone wants my opinion or my help. At the very least, they want to connect with me. If they are willing to share their lives with me, my desire is to respond. Promptly. With creativity. And a bit of humor, if you please. But honestly, it's exhausting.
Dealing with the expectations of others is especially hard for us as women. It's impossible to meet everyone's needs. There are no firm lines between our private and public lives, and it's turning some of us into people-pleasing maniacs. Sadly, this is self-sabotaging behavior.
Jesus identified a similar people-pleasing tendency in His disciples. They were torn between obligations to others and obedience to Him. They wanted to follow Jesus, but on their terms. Jesus challenged this line of thinking, and called them to a new level of obedience, one that forced them to choose what was most important. Here are some examples:
- "Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.'" (Matthew 16:24-25, NIV)
- "Still another said, 'I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.' Jesus replied, 'No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.'" (Luke 9:61-62, NIV)
When the demands of others threatened their immediate obedience, Jesus called them back to Himself. He challenged them with the same unspoken question He asks us: Who are you going to please first?
Without settling our hearts on the answer to this question, we end up with an overwhelmed and over-committed life. Our lives operate like a bumper car, crazily racing in one direction, only to crash into an obstacle and wildly turn another direction.
My life has felt that way at times. But my heart gained clarity and direction when I declared Jesus Christ to be my leader. Now, please know that even though I believed those words in my heart and spoke them with my mouth, it took years to bring every area of my life into alignment. It is still a process, and at times I have to check my reality against my intent.
Declaring Jesus as our leader breaks our bondage to the approval of others, and helps clarify our motives. Plus, it reduces stress as we accept the fact that we can't please everyone, and God never expects us to try.
Dear Lord, You alone are worthy of following. Please forgive the times I've chosen to follow others before You. I long to be a woman with an undivided heart. Help me overcome bondage to the approval of others. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
To bring some simplicity and sanity back into our minds, schedules and homes, we must address the root of the problem. It may take some time to think this through, but start by answering these questions:
1) Who is the master in your life?
2) Who is defining your priorities?
What are some of the negative side effects of people-pleasing? How does it impact my family, church service and work?
Women struggle with people-pleasing tendencies for many reasons. If I struggle with this, can I identify some of my reasons?
James 4:4, "You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God." (NIV)
Matthew 6:1, "Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven." (NIV)
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