Am I a people-pleaser? Do I prefer to pretend to agree with someone else at the expense of losing my own level of joy? Do I prefer to keep the peace with others while silently stewing on the inside? Is it worth the price paid to try to make everyone else happy?
If any of those questions made you feel uncomfortable, you are most likely suffering from the effects of being a people-pleaser. We often hide behind certain verses of scripture or parts of the verses that further serve to support our position or stance about issues in our lives. The same is true for someone who struggles with being a people-pleaser.
Some of the verses (or portions thereof) used for this are:
“….If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it .” Luke 9:23-24
“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Galatians 2:20
“And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Galatians 5:24
In using the 4 passages above, we often use the excuse that we should ”deny ourselves” or our own opinions in order to prevent any confrontation. We typically do not want to avoid the confrontation because it’s the right thing to do. Often, we are avoiding the confrontation out of our own fleshly “passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24) instead of loving someone else through a confrontation. It’s easier to retreat than confront in love, isn’t it?
Another example is:
“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” John 15:13
Although all of these scripture passages are truth, they are misused for the purpose of maintaining personal pride and a false sense of duty to “keep the peace”. We are not called as Christians to “keep the peace”. We are called to MAKE PEACE. Keeping peace brings to mind a child throwing a tantrum in a public place and in order to keep the child from exploding further and somewhat attacking our pride as a parent, the parent hushes or pacifies the child with a piece of candy, toy, etc. The parent may feel that they appear to be in control of the situation to others because they were able to quiet the immaturity for the moment. On the inside, the parent is silently disappointed in their parenting skills because they gave in and the child didn’t learn the right lesson in the scenario. In contrast, the child definitely learned a lesson: the louder I am, and the more I protest something, the quicker I will get what I want. The parent has established a precedent and must fulfill that pattern from that time on unless they want to appear out of control to others.
Another scenario that comes to mind is the use of a pacifier for babies. Please do not misunderstand – I am not against the use of pacifiers for infants. There are proven reasons to support the use of pacifiers up until a certain age. Having said that, all parents who have used pacifiers, have experienced how quickly a baby will stop crying when given a pacifier and likewise, how quickly a baby will start crying if the pacifier is taken away. The same is true of people in general. If someone is upset with you and you simply tell them what they want to hear to “please” them, you have succumbed to your pride in order to save face. You also have established the precedent that if someone makes a big enough fuss (possibly throwing an adult tantrum), you’ll change your mind to agree with them and allow them to have their own way even though you do not agree or do not find it to be scripturally sound. This is a little fox (Song of Solomon 2:15) of lying that creeps into our lives while we think we are doing what’s best for someone else and “laying down our lives for someone else”. You will train people to make a fuss until you have given them the pacifier to quiet them. As parents, we have all used the pacifier to relieve ourselves of the noise of an upset child, not to teach the child a lesson. Also, infants have a need to be pacified, Christians do not.
We often hide our use of spiritual pacifiers under the false blanket of compromise. If you find that you are always the one who gives in, then compromise is not taking place. Pacifying is what is taking place. Just as it eventually seems that the infant has the parent trained to grab the pacifier and put it in the child’s mouth, so it is when we always give in to the unjustified concerns (personal preferences) of another. We have allowed ourselves to be spiritually trained to do what is actually wrong. If the other person always gets their way, what have they learned? What have they gained? Does this behavior allow them the opportunity to grow in Christ? Does this behavior allow you to surrender your pride at the expense of being rejected by someone else when you tell the truth in love? Isn’t that one of the reasons that we give in so easily? We’d rather please someone and falsely deny ourselves than to truly become vulnerable and possibly have to face another tantrum that someone throws?
John 15:9-12 says, “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. “
In reading the previous verses to John 15:13, we see that if we keep His commandments and are acting out of love and not just selfish motives or our desire to be liked, our joy will be full. Have you ever found yourself so frustrated because you didn’t feel that you communicated your position on something as well as you could have only to use the spiritual pacifier on someone in hopes that they’d leave you alone? That is not love. That is not Christ-like. That is selfish, deceitful, stemming from the root of pride. We often rob others of a necessary lesson learned in order to stay in “good graces” with someone or not to “rock the proverbial boat”. Just as natural children do not always NEED agreement from their parents, spiritually speaking, neither do Christians. Sometimes the truth is hard to hear, but it may just be the catalyst needed to propel someone forward out of a state of apathy or indifference to the Kingdom of God.
The next time you find yourself nearing a confrontation similar to what has been described, step back, take a breath, and evaluate the situation. Ask yourself if this is an opportunity for both parties to grow in God? State your position calmly, in love, and watch how much more productive your life (and theirs) will be as a result. Also, take note of the increase of joy in your life once you begin activating this principle. It’s life-changing!