I am a people-pleaser. Many times, that can be a good thing. But sometimes it’s not. If you are anything like me, you know what I’m talking about. You know the times when we choose not to speak up just because we don’t want to upset others. When our actions are driven by the worry about what others will think of us. When we compromise our values for the sake of pleasing someone else. When we feel guilty every time we fail to meet the needs of a loved one. Or when someone criticizes us for something that isn’t even our fault and we feel that we need to appease that person. That’s when being a pleaser can be an incredibly heavy burden on our backs that we cannot easily rid ourselves of. We never feel free to be the person God really created us to be. By forever trying to make everyone around us happy, we take our eyes off the unchanging truth of God and His word, we forget that we are unique and loved by Him just as we are, and in essence, we consider man’s approval to be of more value than God’s.
Does that sound familiar to you? I do believe that God instructs and expects us to put the needs of others before our own and serve them with selfless love. However, we were never meant to elevate people’s needs above God’s will and desire for our lives.
Besides, doesn’t it make us feel tired, weary, and stressed? Isn’t it overwhelming to constantly worry about others’ opinions, and feeling pressured to say “yes” all the time? To live in fear of others’ disapproval? That is NOT what our loving Father intended for our lives! He did not intend for us to take on burdens that we were never meant to carry.
If you’ve ever been to Germany, you may have noticed that no matter where you go, homes and yards are well-kept, streets are swept, people are dressed nicely when leaving the house, and cars are washed. There is a high cultural expectation to take care of yourself and your possessions, and not to embarrass yourself or your neighbours. I grew up in that culture and was steeped in that mindset. And then – I got married! I have the extreme privilege to be married to a man who is pretty much the opposite of me, in pretty much every way. Very early in our marriage, when I began to stress over what I perceived to be expectations of others, my dear godly husband would look at me and ask, “Why are you so worried about what other people think??” Well, I’ve been married for 16 years, and I am still learning. It is not easy to let go of other people’s opinions and only seek to please our Heavenly Father. Yet that is what He clearly expects of us! In 2 Corinthians 10, Paul described how some people had criticized him for his writing style and personality, for the words he was speaking and the actions he was taking. Paul rose above the criticism, went on to point out that we are quick to “judge by appearances” (v. 7), and then he made this statement:
“We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise. We, however, will not boast beyond proper limits, but will confine our boasting to the sphere of service God himself has assigned to us…For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.” (vv. 12-13, 18). In other words, don’t look for the approval of others but focus on the service God has assigned to you.
That can be a tough lesson to learn, and as much as I hate to admit it, it takes discipline and conscious choosing to find contentment in God’s approval of us and not replace it with man’s praise. But it is so freeing and worth it! Let’s give our burden to the Lord and wait expectantly for His “well done!”