The Plight of the People-Pleaser

I have a personality bent towards people-pleasing. It means that when I let my sinful nature go unchecked by time with God, prayer, scripture, or fellowship I find myself emotionally dependent on other’s acceptance of me. I analyze tones, gestures and comments and step back from them angry and insecure or proud and pleased. And in a big group setting those emotions can oscillate from one to the other like it’s a ping pong match. I read into people’s interactions with me and float my security, my identity and my worth on their esteem.

I hunt for my true self as if there are clues tucked away in the communications of others.

By giving others the power to determine who I am, I find myself sifting religiously through their conversations days after they happened. Enslaved to the hope that I am pleasing to others I set them as as my god, their words as my manna.

Maybe you find yourself here sometimes too friend?

Maybe we both need to ponder this idol issue together.

How can we become something other than people-pleasers? How can we find our identities wrapped up in the arms of Jesus?

First a distinction: A people-pleaser is not the same thing as a people lover. When I elevate people and mine them for my own worth – I am not being loving. When my actions and words are said and done to gain the affection I’m trying to tease from others, then my world is centered completely around me. To be a people lover I have to think for them, put their needs before my own. But the solution is not to make others the center of my world either.

The crux of the issue comes back to my heart. The center of my world should not be me or others — it should always be Jesus.

Because to be truly loving I can’t cater to what the other person’s me-monster is either. Coddling someone in their sin nature is just as harmful as coddling myself in my own. To be a good friend we must put Jesus at the center. And when I do that it’s like a switch is hit and the people-pleasing me-monster shuts its jaws — silenced by His love for me and others. Overcome by His authority over my heart.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. -philippians 2

Paul knew the real heart issue — which God are we serving? The idol of people-pleasing is a lonely god whose worshippers cry and laugh at his bidding. They make no real friends and live lives of selfishness and comparison. But Jesus. To serve Jesus. The God-man who humbled Himself down to our level, laughed and cried with us, and died for us knowing our most True selves.

This is a life where we know who we are — redeemed. whole. precious. accepted. clothed in honor.

This is an identity we don’t have to hunt down in every cranny of conversation.

To follow Jesus we imitate Him and lay our lives, reputations and self-worth down for others as He did for us. To serve Christ is not a lonely place to be. He is always near reminding us of His selfless love. And there are always those around us desperate for the love that sets even people-pleasers free.

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