All of us have struggled with insecurity and people pleasing at some point in our lives.
We are afraid, somewhere deep down, that we will be intentionally left out, neglected, or worse… that no one will even see us.
For some of us, these things actually happen.
In our early formative years we are exposed to abuse and lies in such high doses that our fears are reinforced. We lack God-fearing parental figures that should be speaking life to our fear and telling us the truth: that God does see and love us and that He will never leave or forsake us.
We begin to form our lives around these lies, decision after decision. We spend years trying to fit in and measure up, then spend the rest of our lives trying to figure out who we really are. There has been so much compromise, however, that we rarely know where to begin.
People pleasing always leads to compromise of integrity and muddied self image.
You cannot go through life attempting to make people around you happy while simultaneously ensuring your identity and character do not suffer.
This should be a problem isolated to those who have not been found in Christ. Still, so many Christians struggle with the opinions of others and allow their desire for approval to dictate the way they behave. They allow this desire for approval to inform who they are.
The biggest issue with this behavior is that it is directly opposed to the gospel.
People pleasing stems from who we think we are, not what we do. It is a behavioral consequence to a misinformed identity.
Every human is a “being” before they are “doing”.
That is why Jesus so often discussed the state of the heart as the real issue. Who you ARE determines what you DO.
This subsequent, sinful behavior (yes, people pleasing is a sin) is a symptom of our separation from God. Paul goes so far as to say that he would not be a servant of Christ if he were going about people pleasing. This is a thing that pagans do, not children of God.
However, it is not the sin itself that is so deadly but our separation from the Lord, which is breeding ground for sin in action.
People pleasing and desire for approval of man is no different. Many people have accepted the sacrifice of Jesus and wonder why they remain at a distance from God in this area of their life…
May I propose that distance from God cannot be compartmentalized? You are either distant from Him, or you are not.
The difference between a nonbeliever who is distant from God and a Christian who is distant from God, is that the Holy Spirit is received within the believer…
Distance from the Lord as a believer is actually not possible.
The perception of that disconnectedness is based, always, on sentiment and the decision to believe a lie about who you really are.
When we neglect to continually “receive” the Holy Spirit (just admit it, we all have times we’d rather kick Him out), this creates a type of “distance” whereby insecurity creeps in and boldly declares:
“You are not enough. Prove it!”
Placating and seeking approval of other sinful humans occurs solely because we forget that we have already been justified.
To counter this, we must remember who we are in Him. Namely who He is and what He has done for us, and then allow that holy identity to dictate our actions.
The anecdote for bouts of people pleasing (and the compromised integrity that comes along with this evil perspective that man’s opinion matters any, if at all) is to be reminded that we are loved and justified by the Lord.
Not only that we are loved in the comforting sense but that we are loved in the sense that He disciplines us.
Scripture says the Lord disciplines those whom He loves. We do not limit ourselves to receiving only feel-good experiences, but we are open to receiving His correction knowing that He has paid the price and made us acceptable.We will never be rejected!
This is an indispensable facet of the issue because our whole purpose for people pleasing is the desire to avoid negative feedback; desire to avails rejection.
In the Lord, discipline is administered from a loving God who refuses to leave us the way we are, andWILL NEVER REJECT US!
Once we know we are loved in this way, forgiven in this way… man’s opinion remains just that; an opinion.
It does not become fact.
It does not become something that we need to strive every day to live up to so that we can be accepted by the world. A world, mind you, that still rejects our Lord.
We can rest in Him and find strength in the fact that Jesus endured the same struggle. Jesus said the student is not above his teacher, and God loves us just as he loves Jesus!
Jesus speaks this love when He prays in chapter 17 of John:
I pray not only for these, but also for those who believe in Me through their message.
May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You. May they also be one in Us, so the world may believe You sent Me.
I have given them the glory You have given Me. May they be one as We are one.
I am in them and You are in Me. May they be made completely one, so the world may know You have sent Me and have loved them as You have loved Me.
Father, I desire those You have given Me to be with Me where I am. Then they will see My glory, which You have given Me because You loved Me before the world’s foundation.
Righteous Father! The world has not known You. However, I have known You, and these have known that You sent Me.
I made Your name known to them and will make it known, so the love You have loved Me with may be in them and I may be in them.
We can be confident of these things because of Jesus’s prayer:
1) We are enough. We are complete in Him and community with one another as a reflection of Him.
2) We are loved and known beyond what we can possibly imagine. We are loved by the Father just as He has loved Jesus!
3) All glory we have is from God and rightly belongs to Him. Keeping any for ourselves is a symptom that we are believing a lie: that we have separated our “glory” from His.
So, next time you are tempted to please someone (including yourself since that is ultimately what “people pleasing” is), remember Jesus’s prayer.
Remember these truths.
When you are rejected, it is not you the world is rejecting but Christ in you.
When you are accepted, be a vessel that flows both ways bringing the glory of heaven to earth and the earthly praise back to the Father.
May you walk in truth today, knowing you are complete, loved, and accepted by the God who has brought you out of bondage to yourself and others.
My prayer for you is that you never again return to that barren place.