“Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.”
2 Corinthians 5:9
It’s Friday. Time for a little pop quiz. Grab your Number 2 pencil and be sure to keep your eyes on your own quiz paper. You may begin.
Oh, and relax, this assignment won’t be graded.
- Worry about what people think of you?
- Shade the truth in order “not to offend others”?
- Rarely reveal to others the truth about who you really are inside?
- Avoid conflicts rather than trying to resolve them?
- Strive to be politically correct more than biblically correct?
- Like to go “fishing” for compliments?
- Long to be noticed more than you long to be godly?
- Give in to peer pressure rather than standing up for what you know is right?
- Avoid witnessing to others as you should because you fear being criticized or rejected?
- Gossip about others to people whom you believe will be pleased with you for giving them such luscious tidbits of information?
- When meeting new people, spend more time thinking about how to impress them than how to minister to them?
If you answered yes to one or more of the above questions, you just might be a people-pleaser. Hmmm…being a people-pleaser. That doesn’t sound so bad, does it? In fact, it almost sounds like a nice thing to be. And as Christians, we should try to please other people, right?
Well, yes, within certain boundaries. After all, we could hardly fulfill the command to love our neighbor as ourselves if we didn’t seek to please others in some way. But a problem develops when we get our motives out of whack and pleasing others becomes just one more way to please ourselves. In this case, our desire to please other people has little to do with providing for their needs and everything to do with providing for our own selfish desires. It’s not just that we like to please other people, but that we need to please them. We crave, thrive on, and live for their approval.
Another common term for this condition is “codependency,” and as biblical counselor Lou Priolo explains in his book, Pleasing People, this inordinate desire to please others is a very serious issue:
In the most general terms, the concept of codependency seems to best fall under the biblical category of “idolatry”—looking to someone (or something) else to do for me those things that only God can do. In terms of a type of person who is characterized by this particular kind of behavior, “people-pleaser” is the more specific diagnosis. The motive of such an individual is identified in John 12:43: he “loved the approval of men rather than [or at least more than] the approval of God.”
Yikes. People-pleasing doesn’t sound nearly so nice now, does it? The Bible refers to this sinful tendency as the fear of man and warns of the danger of its entrapment (Prov. 29:25). If you currently find yourself caught in the trap of fearing man rather than fearing God, you need to be set free. Here’s how:
To eliminate the lust for man’s approval, you’ll have to replace it with a lust for God’s approval. The best way to dethrone this approval idol is to prayerfully develop a desire (cultivate an appetite) for the approval of the One who righteously judges not only your words, actions, and attitudes, but also the thoughts and intentions of your heart. This must be your highest goal–your number-one priority…
Imagine what it will be like to long for God’s approval more than the approval of all men. Think of the day when you long to please God so much that you no longer worry about what others think of you. “There goes [insert your name],” they’ll say of you. “He’s the most objective, impartial, and God-fearing person I know. He doesn’t seem to care what others think of him.” And when you stand before the Lord, you’ll hear Him say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” Moreover, that little “love of approval” handle that protrudes from your back by which others now control you will be broken. The strings that others now use to manipulate and intimidate you will be cut, and you will experience a new freedom to serve God without fearing man. Fix your hope on these goals until they become a reality.
Learn more about overcoming the fear of man:
Pleasing People: How not to be an “approval junkie” by Lou Priolo
When People Are Big and God Is Small by Ed Welch
(Quiz questions taken from Pleasing People, pp. 20-21, 28-29)