We all remember strange, unimportant events in life. One of those for me was when me and a group of guys made fun of another student in high school. This student went on and on about a particular movie that he had watched that week, telling us about how wonderful it was. A more respected leader within the group chimed in after the student’s movie review, saying that he thought the movie was crap. Almost immediately the student recanted his prior approval of the film saying, “Yeah I guess it wasn’t all that great.” We all laughed at his blatant reversal of opinion. It was very clear that whether the student liked the movie or not, what he cared more about was the approval of the group. I was among the group laughing at this student, but I shouldn’t have been. For as long as I can remember I have been doing the exact same thing….I’ve been a people-pleaser.
IT ISN’T ALL THAT BAD…IS IT?
On one hand, people pleasing has been a positive attribute. Because I care what others think and care about, people generally appreciate the consideration. It’s helped me at times be a better listener and to be more empathetic. I’ve been told before that I’m a good listener (I’m not…just ask my wife); and I’ve been considered the friend that will do anything for you (not true either). Those comments are sweet melody in my ears at first, but then I’m filled with the dread of knowing that now I have to fulfill the prophecy. If they said I’m a good listener, I now need to make sure I live into their impression. If they say I’ll do anything for them, I better do anything. The pedestal of praise soon becomes the trapeze of expectation. And instead of simply being myself, I attempt to be what others want me to be. And let me tell you, that is no way to live. There have been times in my life when I’ve hidden that fact that I’m a pastor for fear of making it weird. I’ve put my time with my wife to the side to rush to someone’s expectation of what a pastor should do. It’s no way to live.
“I’M GOOD ENOUGH, I’M SMART ENOUGH, AND DOGGONE-IT PEOPLE LIKE ME”
Now I’m not Stuart Smalley talking into a mirror, but one discipline that I practice is stopping, breathing, and simply being content in the moment. While people-pleasing would run my mind frantic concocting scenarios where some would be disappointed with me, contentedness gives me a sense of reality. The reality is that I’m never going to be able to please everyone, and that making mistakes and failing is as common as breathing. That’s the reality of humanity, of which I am included. But in those moments I also am struck with a reality about God; that God is a God who loves me for me. Yes, God desires for me to move onto perfection and to be made into the image of Jesus, but God’s love didn’t come with stipulations. He didn’t say, “clean yourself up, and then my Son will die for you.” No, He sent His Son to die despite our frailty…despite our humanity. God’s love is a given, I can always count on it. So if you deal with people pleasing like me, try not to let others hold up your mirror. Let God hold up your mirror, and then go from there.