I'm a daughter, granddaughter & niece of pastors. I love God & studying the Bible and want to empower others to do the same.
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
People pleasing is an exhausting, impossible idol. But it is one I was a slave to for most of my life, and a pattern I can find myself falling back into if I’m not careful. When we fear upsetting or disobeying other people more than we care about God, or we go against God to obey the promptings and preferences of others, we make others an idol, and we sin.
Pleasing people is impossible to manage all the time, because no human is pleased all the time, or can be. Our whims shift like the wind, and manipulative, selfish people are aware of this (even if only subconsciously) and will use it to their advantage, constantly keeping you on your toes, ready to jump at their every desire to avoid their anger, snide or critical comments, disapproving facial expressions, or withheld affection or words or love—in the case of the most manipulative and the verbally or emotionally abusive.
Even well-meaning people who aren't manipulative or ill-intentioned have a tendency to focus in their world and their priorities, or to look at our lives based on their own perceptions, and can distract us from the path we need to walk now, in this season. Their walk, their call, and their priorities based on the current season of their lives might not be the same as mine right now (I can save some of those ideas for a later time, but I don't have to implement every piece of advice now that's given now). So we even need to be cautious and use discernment with well-meaning, kind people and their advice or pressures, because they can distract or derail us from the things we are currently called to in this present season of our lives.
No one can serve two masters: Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. -Matthew 6:24.
We also cannot serve God and man. At some point, they will contradict each other. At some point, all humans will fall away from God. So first and above all, what should I listen to? Should my main priority be adhering to the “helpful” suggestions of friends, the guilt trips of family members, the subconscious messages of society, the pressures of social media and its endless lists of what they say we should/shouldn’t be doing with our jobs, homes, relationships, cleaning, cooking, organizing, parenting, our parents, and on and on ad nauseum?
Or, do I pull back into the silent spaces with God, leaning in to hear His gentle whisper, as He guides me in what to do today, in what order of priority, and tells me what is “enough” or too much? Do I let God or family decide what belongs on my schedule? Do I let God or guilt decide when I rest and how much? Do I let God or shame drive me? Guilt is a powerful weapon used by much of the world to coerce others into doing what they want. So is fear—especially fear of anger, or of disappointment, or of withdrawal of love.
As a teen, I was terrified of being a disappointment, and strove for impossible perfectionism, an addict to the praise of people, because I thought God’s wasn’t enough. I didn’t realize just how much He loved me, and that I didn’t owe Him or have to “pay Him back” with good works in exchange for my salvation. I didn’t know how to really hear Him either, to be silent and listen, or to be still long enough. I was always over-achieving, never resting, until I would burn out. Then I felt guilty for resting, as if I was disappointing someone. I was always seeking the approval of these people, all the while hating myself, thinking I would never be enough, achieve enough, to earn rest or real love. I had manipulative people in my teen and young adult years who vocalized or exploited my fears, manipulating me into constantly jumping through hoops to try to “make them happy” or keep them there whenever I miraculously achieved it. This was always a pointless task, because with a manipulator, a verbal abuser, an emotional abuser, or an extremely self-centered person, “making them happy” is a constantly moving target. What worked yesterday doesn’t today. It’s not something that can ever be maintained from day to day, hardly from minute to minute. And honestly, when did someone else’s “happiness” become my responsibility? Are we not to all seek God to “fill me with Joy in His presence, with eternal pleasures at His right hand? (Ps. 16:11) Shouldn’t we take our deepest well of joy not from others, but “rejoice in the Lord, take Joy in the God of my salvation”? (Hab. 3:18) Isn’t happiness fleeting, and joy permanent anyway? And isn’t joy something we each receive from our own relationship with the Lord, not from another person (as if their relationship with the Lord was all we need to have one with Him and find all we desire or need)?
So if I’m seeking happiness for another person, or from myself, or from another person for me, am I not setting them and myself up for an impossible task, a pedestal from which they will eventually fall, as sinful humans? And does that pedestal not decry that that person, job, object or desire has now become my idol? This truth hurts. I have had to confront it many times, often unwillingly. It is not my job to please people, or to seek to, nor to make their approval my primary goal. Yes, I need to “live at peace with others AS MUCH AS IS POSSIBLE” (Rom. 12:18), but the honest truth is there are some people that have no peace and do not desire it. They are miserable by choice, and I cannot drag any stubborn horse to drink water to which his lips are already completely closed. And in fully abandoning the world and following God, it is guaranteed that we, like Jesus, will offend and lose friends and family members, not in speaking wrongly, but in choosing to stand for what is right and good and godly according to the Word, no matter how kindly and gently we speak. (Luke 12:52-53, Luke 6:22-23, 2 Chron. 36:16) There will always be some who refuse to hear the Word and despise us for speaking it. Often this is as a result of their own guilt and unwillingness to change, and we should pray for their hearts to soften. But the responsibility for their change is NOT and will NEVER be our responsibility. NEVER. That’s between them and God.
So then what is my responsibility? Put God on the throne. Seek to obey Him first, most, always. Read His Word, pray, listen for His voice, let the Holy Spirit guide me in how to interact with others and how much HE SAYS I should do for them (not jumping at every guilt trip that comes along, or every person who seeks to shame me into action or behavior—those are the actions of wolves: Acts 20:28-30, Matt. 7:15-16, ). Sometimes children (and us especially, as God’s children) need to learn some lessons on their own, sometimes the hard way. Sometimes they need verbal guidance. Sometimes they need physical assistance. God gives discernment to show what needs to be done when we “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17). Above all other priorities or pressures, above all the guilt and the noise and the pressure, I’m thankful I can walk away from these to a quiet place, to “love the LORD your God, listen to His voice, and hold fast to Him. For the LORD is your life” - Deuteronomy 30:20.
For further reading, 1 Thess. 2:4, Jer. 42:6, 1 Chron. 28:8, 2 Chron. 14:3-5.
© 2021 Amanda Lorenzo
Naude Lorenzo on February 04, 2021:
These articles belong in a book that everyone can read, is an encouragement to us who know Christ and even to the ones who don't know Him, may come to do so, well done Amanda