Lesson #1: People pleasing works until it doesn’t.
Let me explain. A pastor friend thrived on giving people what they wanted. On this particular day, he had scheduled an important meeting for ministry leaders in our church. With everything in place, one couple, after agreeing, discovered a conflict in their calendar. The pastor had developed a practice of pleasing the person in front of him at the time so, he changed the date. Later, when he announced it to the other leaders, he found out they couldn’t make it. The blank stare on his face was explained by his words, “Now I don’t know what to do”. People pleasing works until it doesn’t. I have found this scenario in my own life. With good intentions I try to please the person in front of me, which usually results in displeasing someone else. Can you relate? I know, you know that “You can’t please everyone”. So, what do you do? Maybe a few things I’ve discovered in my journey will help.
Lesson #2: Not everyone will like me, ever (probably).
I don’t know who said it, but it seems to hold true. While I have tried to please everyone, the reality is that 10% of the people in my church don’t like me–and they don’t know why. Another 10% do like me and they really don’t know why either. The remaining 80% don’t really think about me. Which means, 10% will find a reason not to be pleased, 10% remain pleased and 80% don’t really think about it. It’s likely the same for you.
Lesson #3: People pleasing makes me inauthentic.
More times than I want to remember, I have calculated where someone was going to land on a subject and adjusted my answer to please them. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But I can remember in an effort to be pleasing there were times when I gave two different answers to different people. I tried to justify it to myself. Truth is I was speaking out of both sides of my mouth. That was convicting.
Lesson #4: I can’t please everyone, but I can shoot to be pleasing to all.
There’s a difference. As a people pleaser my motives were self-focused. I want people to like me, don’t you? I thought if people liked me, I could teach them more about Jesus. That’s a good reason, right? They may like me now, but people don’t respect people-pleasers. I’d rather have their respect.
The better answer was to stop being a people pleaser and focus on being pleasing to people. For me, that means living authentically. As Proverbs says, I tie loyalty and kindness around my neck. In other words, I shoot to be a faithful and kind person, who not only looks out for their own needs, but considers the needs of others. You know, like Jesus. Sometimes it is as simple as listening to others; no really, listening. Sometimes what others really need is to be heard.
Lesson #5: Put God first.
Romans 12:1 instructs us to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. We know this. So, what do I do now? I focus on pleasing God. Believe it or not, by and through His grace that is possible. I live my life as best I can for an audience of One. It looks like this; in the NFL the quarterback is connected to the coach through a microphone in his helmet. And even above the cacophony of the fans cheering, jeering, and yelling out instructions the quarterback listens only to the voice of the coach as he calls in the plays. The quarterback’s job is to please the coach. My job is to please the Lord. In the end, He is the only One I must answer to.
I am reminded of the statement that guided Dr. Charles Stanley’s life which was: “Obey God and leave the consequences to Him.” In other words, obeying God comes with His protection.
Lesson #6: People pleasing is my expectation, not theirs.
I get it, there are people who manipulate to get you to do what they want. And if you don’t, they will make you pay. I remind myself that Jesus walked away from people like them. For that matter, not everyone liked Jesus. If we are abiding in Christ, there are people who will not like us. It hurts, but it’s okay, because God loves me. So, for the most part being a people pleaser is a self-inflicted problem. I have found that it comes from my desire to be liked. If I can change the words to the song, I am looking for acceptance in all the wrong places.
Lesson #7: My identity in Christ gives me freedom from the need to have people like me.
Ron Cook reminds me frequently of my identity in Christ. Which is, “Because of Christ’s redemption, I am a new creation of great worth. I am deeply loved, completely forgiven, fully pleasing, totally accepted by God and absolutely complete in Christ.” In the end, If God likes me, does it really matter what others think?
So, let me ask you…
Are you a people pleaser? Or are you a God-pleaser who is pleasing to others?