I pride myself on being a really skilled people-pleaser. Actually, that's a brazen lie. In my lifetime efforts of trying to please everyone, I seldom pleased anyone and when I did, it was usually at great personal expense.
God feels strongly about this misguided practice, often a big issue for Christians because we tell ourselves pleasing others pleases God. Well, motives matter. The who, why, when, and how's of our people pleasing counts. In my own case, people pleasing was often fueled by fear and insecurity, and by extension, a drive to control. Fear of not getting what I wanted or losing what I already have. Attempting to control outcomes or others' opinions of me out of fear. Exhausting!
Fear and faith are fundamentally incompatible.
These words spoken by the Apostle Paul to the Galatians are among the tamest of God's opinion on the matter of people pleasing, fear of people, or pandering. In Matthew 10:28, Jesus Himself warns us not to fear people who can hurt our bodies but not our soul, but to fear the One who can destroy both our body and soul (YIKES!). Earlier, Jesus also said, “Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no,” suggesting doing or not doing something just to please people is a no-no. Likewise, James spoke strongly against favoring people of wealth or influence (James 2:1-5).
That’s pretty clear, folks. That’s permission—if not an actual direct order—to not be a people pleaser, straight from the God of the Universe! There are many other verses that speak to the topic. Google it and behold.
Yet, I lived this way for decades.
I picked this graphic because for many years I sought the approval and applause of multiple others. It's kind of like wack-a-mole; One or more people might be pleased, but many others were not, almost always including yours truly.
Why does God feel so strongly about this subject? In reality, people pleasing is a form of idolatry, putting people above God, a truly unholy bargain. People pleasing is crazy-making and it undermines our ability to fulfill our God-given purpose, as Paul says so plainly here. God wants us to be free to be who He intended us to be.
What is the remedy to this frustrating, futile, and fundamentally faith-less practice? The solution is the same as it is for everything else: More of God! The closer we draw to God, the more our choices will be informed by His Spirit, rather than the random, racing treadmill of people-pleasing. The closer we are to God, the more grounded we are in His love and acceptance of us through Christ, the more we're attuned to God's voice within us, and the less we're driven by fear. It is a conscious practice, this God-focus, but practice does yield results. Checking our motives and checking with God often is key. We’re likely to need to do this many times a day.
It is admittedly challenging because once we stop people pleasing, people stop being pleased. That's a fact. Some of those people will eventually adapt and others will go away. Whatever the case, we can trust that God honors our efforts to prioritize Him over an ocean of others we might seek to please. And when we fail, which we will surely do, Jesus stands in gap.
Grace & peace,
PRAYER: Dear Dad, Forgive me for putting people before You. Give me the presence of mind to check with You first, put You First, and trust You with the outcome, even if it displeases others. Thank You that in Christ, I can rest in Your perfect love for me, casting out all fear. I love You.💖
P.S. If you want to read a very enlightening and bracing work on the fear of man, check out "A Treatise Against the Fear of Man," written by Augustus Franck in the 1700s (there are free pdfs online). Chapter 2-5 alone are real eye-openers. If you struggle with people pleasing or fear of people, this book will help. I was stunned how spot-on Augustus was about causes, conditions, and remedies related to people-pleasing. I guess we humans don’t change that much.