People Pleasing Defined
Although the terminology of “people pleasing” may not necessarily always be associated with when it is occurring, I still believe that the activity of “people pleasing” pervades much of our lifestyles even as Christians.
“Psychology Today” defines the characteristics of a people pleaser as follows:
A people pleaser is one of the nicest and most helpful people you know. They never say “no.” You can always count on them for a favor. In fact, they spend a great deal of time doing things for other people. They get their work done, help others with their work, make all the plans, and are always there for family members and friends.
Issues with People Pleasing
There is nothing inherently wrong with the desire of being there to help out those who are in need. In fact, as Christians we are called to love others self-sacrificially, which would certainly include those times when it is inconvenient for us. Two pivotal issues need to be expanded upon in order to better grasp why Christians should never allow the worldly activity of “people pleasing” to infiltrate their service to God.
- Motives of Heart– Any professing-believer who serves others in order to curry the favour and the respect from other people is clearly not doing it for God. The person ought to examine the motives of their heart to identify why they choose to serve others. They should ask the question: Am I doing this for God’s glory, or for my glory instead?
- It is Impossible to Please Everyone– When you try to gain everyone’s approval, the inevitable result is that you will gain no one’s approval. Apart from this heart attitude being completely unbiblical, it is also completely self-defeating because it will never succeed. The simple truth of the matter is that you cannot please everyone, regardless of how hard you try! I believe that God designed it this way so that we would be drawn to Him in humility. If and when this form of unhealthy behaviour persists and develops into a patterned behaviour, it will lead to an array of adverse physical health effects. For the Christian, their spiritual vitality will also be neutralized and they will become very unfruitful. God has never intended for us to live in such a harmful way.
I am somebody who has struggled with the sinful pattern of people pleasing for most of my life. God has blessed me with a kind attitude and a heart for serving others but there are times when my motives go unchecked causing me to fall into the “performance-trap”. What I mean by this is that I begin to care more about what others think about me than what God thinks about me. Tragically, when I do this I am essentially telling God that His approval is not enough and that I want more. I become forgetful and I need to be reminded that I already stand right before God which is immeasurably more meaningful than the approval of man. Even as believers, we need repeated exposure to the Gospel either through self-preaching or preaching from others. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why Jesus likened us to forgetful sheep and also why we have been given God’s Holy Word to read over and over again.
Hope in the Gospel
This right standing(justification) is not as the result of what I could ever accomplish, but rather, what Jesus has accomplished when He accepted the punishment for my sins on the Cross. When God looks at those Who place their trust in Him as Saviour and Lord, He sees His Son, and with us He is also well-pleased. This is precisely the Truth which sets Christianity apart from all world religions. God has already reached down to us in and through His Son, Jesus, where He has paved The Way for us to Heaven. We cannot work to somewhere earn it, all we can do is accept it humbly with open arms. Not only does the Gospel free us from the need to perform to please others, it also provides us with right relationship to the Only One True God where He sees us perfectly.
How God Instructs Us How To Serve Others
When it comes to serving others, God expects His children to act very differently in comparison to those who are of the world. Fascinatingly, it is possible for unbelievers to possess an appearance of spirituality without actually possessing a saving faith. 2 Timothy 3:5 refers to this said cohort of people(fully described in verses 2-5) by describing them as possessors of, “…the appearance of godliness, but denying its power”. Clearly, this is a superficial and a vain attention-capturing form of godliness which is of the flesh, not the spirit. Verse 4 even supportingly describes them as “swollen with conceit”. At the core, it starts with the intent of the heart, which only God has the ability to see and know fully. This is both terrifying and reassuring at the same time. On the one hand, we can fool others with our “righteous deeds” while God cannot be fooled. On the other hand, because our hearts lay open before God, He knows when our deeds are genuine despite what others may think. When we do good deeds so that we are noticed and given recognition before man, the gratification we receive from this temporary approval is the full extent of our reward as seen below in Matthew 6:1-4:
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
We are called to serve in the utmost humility and surrender to God alone because it is not about us; it is about God and Him getting the maximum glory. This can only happen as we decrease and He increases(John 3:30). The point I believe that Jesus desires to drive home is that when our hearts are postured in the right way before God, the fruit that we bear will be an overflow of what has been supernaturally sown within the roots of our new heart. This simply cannot happen in our carnal and fleshly state. The only undefiled and pure fruit yielded that will last eternally is the fruit that comes from a redeemed heart. And only Jesus can provide us with this redeemed heart!
I pray that Christians may be challenged and encouraged to live unwaveringly for the glory of God knowing that we are 100% approved by Him no matter what the world tells us. Please solidify the awe-inspiringly beautiful foundational truth that our identities are safe and secure in Jesus Christ! In Jesus’ Name, I pray. Amen.
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