The Rip Current of People-Pleasing
"Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ." Galatians 1:10 (NIV)
Bring up the phrase "people-pleasing" in a group of women and the responses are interesting. Most will quickly say they struggle with this to some degree. Those that say they don't struggle with people-pleasing eventually admit before the conversation is over that it's present in at least one of their relationships.
People-pleasing is something we seem kind of resigned to having to deal with rather than determined to overcome.
Why is that?
We all want to be liked. There's nothing wrong with that. But as we travel the path toward love and acceptance let's take a look at two of the possible motivations behind people-pleasing.
One motivation is to give love out of the kindness of our heart. In giving love we feel love. That's good.
Another motivation is to give to others out of what we hope to get in return-love. In getting love from what we do, we feel desperate to do more to get more. That's dangerous.
It's the second way that gets us into trouble with people-pleasing. It's not wrong to want to make others feel loved, happy, and pleased. But if we are doing it with the motivation of getting things in return, we will set ourselves up for trouble. Being in a constant state of trying to get love by doing more and more will lead to exhaustion.
Exhaustion for the giver. Exhaustion for the taker. Exhaustion in the relationship all together.
Ephesians 5:8-10 says, "... for at one time you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord." (ESV)
I like the explanation of what the fruit or evidence is of us walking as children of light — doing what is good, right, and true — as we discern what is pleasing to the Lord.
I am challenged to make this a filter for the decisions I'm making today. You see, I know I'm in the rip current of people-pleasing when I dread saying yes but feel powerless to say no.
If I'm seeking to please the Lord, I will ask some questions before agreeing to do something for another person: Am I doing this with good motives, right intentions, and true expectations?
Or am I doing this with:
Fearful motives ... They might not like me if I say no.
Skewed intentions ... If I do this for them will they be more likely to do that for me?
Unrealistic expectations ... I just know if I give a little more, they'll affirm me and I'm desperate for their affirmation.
Wherever we focus our attention the most will become the driving force in our lives.
The more I focus on trying to figure out how to please people, the more of a magnified force people-pleasing will become in my life. The more I focus on trying to figure out how to please God, the more of a magnified force He will become in my life.
My focus. My choice.
Dear Lord, help me break away from my people-pleasing tendencies. Guide me in my daily decisions as I battle fearful motives, skewed intentions, and unrealistic expectations. I want to make You the focus, Father, so that You continue to become the magnified force in my life. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Reflect and Respond:
Have you experienced the cycle of doing more to get more?
Search your heart and ask, What are my motives? Am I seeking to please people or God in this situation? You may need to place healthy boundaries in your relationships with others so that you can learn when to say "yes" and when to say "no."
1 Thessalonians 2:4, "On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts." (NIV)
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