Purging the Plate of People Pleasing

Have you ever been confused about whether you are people-pleasing or just lovingly serving others? Read more…

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I felt a nervous low-grade panic mingle in the pit of my stomach. “Would you like to go out to dinner with us tonight?” It was a simple question posed by my compassionate sister-in-law. Oh no! What does she want me to say? Do they really want me to go or is she just trying to be nice? Will I hurt her feelings if I say “no”? Is she hoping I will say “no”? What is the best thing for me to do? The indecision must have been written all over my face because she said (in her direct, perceptive, but loving way) “Please don’t think about what I want you to say. What would you like to do?” I had no idea. I had spent such a long time- many years in fact-trying to make sure I said and did the “right” thing, I had forgotten how to look within and see what I wanted, needed, or truly felt? That “me” was buried under heavy piles of “unhealthy” on a plate of “doing what it takes to make other people happy”.

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10

I got it mixed up and for a long time- this pleasing God vs. pleasing people thing. I got it mixed up. I became confused about what it looks like to be a “good person” or a “good Christian” or a “good wife” or a “good friend”. I brought my soggy brown bag of other people’s expectations to the party, served it on a plate of flimsy acceptance paper and labeled it “good works”. And…while I know that, because I am a Jesus follower saved by grace, I am called to do good works, I lost sight of the fact that the Bible states, “For we are HIS workmanship.” His! I am not other people’s workmanship. I am not called to do good works to earn favor from others.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10 KJV

I got it mixed up- trying to figure out what others wanted from me and forgetting God’s unconditional love and forgiveness. I let any bite of criticism eat at me. I got confused about giving my best for the sake of others (sometimes to my own detriment) and loving others because God loved me. I dedicated myself to being all for everyone while missing the healthy portion that God wanted me to set aside for taking care of “me” and more importantly, that nourishing serving that was to meant to grow me closer to Him.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2

What does people pleasing look like? It is in those tiny decision moments when you can do it for God or do it for you, or do it for them, or do it so that they will still like you or think you are great. When it becomes obsessive, you stop expressing your opinion, you stuff your needs, forget your wants, you “shut up and smile.” You lose all sense of boundaries. You lose your God-given sense of self. You can’t afford to lose their approval- to risk them abandoning you.

You forget where your ultimate approval comes from: you lose sight of the truth that humans do not decide your worth. You become resentful. You become sad. You become like a heaping platter which can hold no more and one day you become so heavy with trying to please those around you that you eventually tip and slip and spill in a heap all over the ground- the nourishment so muddled with the empty and the poison that you can’t pick out what is “right” anymore.

Fear of man will prove to be a snare,
    but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe. Proverbs 29:25 (NIV)

However, I am so grateful the Lord does not leave you there- on the floor- in a pile of mess. He keeps molding and making- healing and helping- changing from the inside so that your mixed up mess will some day slowly become the unique flavorful feast He intended you to be. Your identity is not what those around you think or those hidden voices that creep up from inside that say you are not “good enough” unless you are being “good enough” and when is that “good enough”? No, your identity and worth is tied to who you are according to God.

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. Philippians 1:6

Though every now and then, I still can’t resist placing a few well-chosen acts of people-pleasing on my plate, I am quick to recognize it’s potential to be harmful to my health. After many years and many lessons, I am learning much about the difference of serving others with God’s love versus people pleasing. I know that to please God my job is to love Him… and to love others. This is not the same as losing myself to them. I can still busy myself with helping others (highly satisfying and fun) but it is not the same as doing for others in a way that is not healthy for them or me. It is giving in a God-honoring way or for the pleasure of it, not to gain the approval of the recipients. It is knowing not everyone has to like me. It is being okay with who God chose me to be- knowing my uniqueness is created by God. It is setting boundaries and being direct about wants and needs. It is comforting and encouraging because God has comforted and encouraged me. It is forgiving as I have been forgiven and loving others with grace and truth. It is about freedom and trusting.

And… now when someone asks me to dinner, I answer truthfully and without panic- grateful from a peaceful plate of me being me. Thank you, Lord.

For we speak as messengers approved by God to be entrusted with the Good News. Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts.1 Thessalonians 2:4

Dear Readers: Thank you so much for joining me again this week. I am committed to posting every Thursday and remain excited to write my weekly blog. However, due to my strong desire to tell the second half of my story with authenticity and introspection, I need more time. I have written titles with empty pages including: “The Fruitless Attempt to be the World’s Greatest Christian Wife”, “Rich for a Minute”, “Betrayal- What to do When Angry at God”, “The Power of Stay” “The Healing Seasons” and more. I just can’t do them justice within a week or a short blog. Therefore, I am going to take spend the time I need to write the second half of my story with the care and prayer without self-pressure or the “just get it done” syndrome. Perhaps a few weeks in the mountains would help. Still…I hope to see you next week as I continue posting blogs. I will also keep you posted on my progress and you will be the first to know when I have finished. My sincere thanks to each of you who take your valuable time to be part of this blog with me. Next Thursday’s post is called, “And Yet”.

2 comments on “Purging the Plate of People Pleasing”

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