What God is Teaching Me | Who Do I Try to Please?

March 28, 2011


So I haven’t blogged in quite a while.  I could blame it on our two week trip to Los Angeles, although, I had a bunch of posts written before we left—just ready to be posted every other day or so while we were on vacation.  I think a better excuse for my absence in the virtual world is that God has been blowing my mind through a number of successive Biblical revelations and friendly confrontations.  It’s been an incredibly profitable few weeks and quite honestly: I’ve been too overwhelmed to write.

I’ve tried to write this particular post several times.  Each time I ended up rambling on and on and was never able to just say what I wanted to say and tell you what I wanted to tell you about what God is currently doing in my life.  (In fact, this post might be shorter if I titled it, “What God is NOT Teaching Me.”)  It’s very exciting, and I think the difficulty I’m having in putting it all on paper is that He’s just not done with me yet.  I still have a long way to go and a lot to learn about this area of my life.  I will, though, attempt to tell you the whole story and describe what God is currently teaching me.  I apologize in advance for any rambling.

Who Do I Try to Please?

One morning a few weeks ago as I was sitting on my couch, my Bible open on my lap, it struck me: I had been thinking about other people–my friends–and their situations for at least 30 minutes.  Then the Lord shocked me again: I realized that a great deal of each of my days was spent thinking about, pondering, and just generally mulling over my friends and their situations.  Sometimes these thoughts were righteous: what I liked about a certain friend, wondering what a certain friend was up to, if her kids were feeling better, praying for friends, etc.  However, far too often these thoughts were not righteous—they were downright sinful: wishing my life was a little bit more like hers, wondering if this person liked me, or thought I was godly, what I could do to make so-and-so think I was awesome, etc.

A while back my friend Monica, from A Godly Heritage, wrote about having a Heart of Jealousy.  At the time I thought, “Yes.  This is perfect.  I do get jealous of my friends–what she wrote about is what I struggle with, too!”  And I was thankful for her reminder.  It wasn’t until a few weeks ago, sitting on my couch with my mind blown, though, that I realized how much deeper my sin was.  It wasn’t just that I occasionally became jealous of a friend.  At first I resolved to consider myself just really very concerned with my friends and their well-being.  (the heart truly is deceitful—Jeremiah 17:9).  I was actually quite pleased with myself for coming to this conclusion.  As the days continued, though, the Lord kept pulling at my heart and finally I came to the right conclusion: that my inner life was characterized by my feelings of jealousy, and inadequacy, judgment, and just simply being consumed with others’ lives–it was a problem.

I didn’t really know where to even start to figure this whole thing out.  I imagined that “fear of man” was what I was struggling with.  “Fear of man” has always been something I knew I struggled with, but I had always thought of it as simply “caring about what others think about me.” What I learned from the study that followed has changed my life forever.

I began simply studying a few verses that seemed to be about fearing man:

  • Galatians 1:10 “For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men?  If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.” In context here, Paul is defending his message—there were men called Judaizers that were trying to discredit Paul (and so also his message: Christ and Him crucified).  In the verses leading up to verse 10, Paul had just condemned any man who preached a message contrary to the Gospel to Hell.  So here, in verse 10, he’s asking, “Seriously!?  You think I’m in ministry to please men!?  I just condemned people to Hell—that’s hardly pleasing men!”  This is a great verse, but my problem seemed to be thinking about others and wanting to be seen as more godly than I am—not necessarily saying things or doing things only to please them—or was it!?
  • Proverbs 29:35 “The fear of man brings a snare, But he who trusts in the LORD will be exalted.” Finally!  This seemed like a verse that was speaking to me–to me who is worried about what others think about menial things like the clothes I wear and not necessarily the gospel—because the people I try and impress are already believers.  Fear, here in the Hebrew, gives the idea of, “when one’s actions are controlled or confined by the one dreaded.”  A snare refers to, “a noose by which wild beasts and birds are caught.”  So if I am changing my actions to fit the likings of someone else I bring death upon myself—I mean I’m not sure what other picture a noose is supposed to conjure up!  I love the second part of this verse, though: The opposite of fearing man is trusting the Lord!  That word trust isn’t a word only used to speak of God—it means confiding “in any one, to set one’s hope and confidence upon any one.”  The word “exalted,” although it seems as if it might mean to be seen as lofty, or to be held in high esteem, actually can also be translated to mean “safe.”  What a fantastic picture: If I trust in the Lord—if I put my hope and confidence in Him, I will be safe!
  • 1 Thessalonians 2:4 “but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts.” You might not believe it, but Paul is again defending his message and character.  And again, Paul is saying that he doesn’t seek the pleasure of men–noting how offensive the gospel (his message) is.  And even though it was encouraging that only the Lord knows my heart (and so it’s useless to try to please others), this still wasn’t what I was looking for.

I was satisfied with meditating on and studying Proverbs 29:25, but I still felt like I hadn’t really hit what my root issue was.  I mean—the more I studied this verse the more I recognized that my problem was far from just thinking about others all the time—it was what I was thinking about that was the problem.  I was playing and re-playing conversations I had had with others, obsessing over what that comment I made might have done to my reputation in so-and-so’s eyes, wondering if such-and-such-a decision I had made for my life would be offensive to so-and-so, constantly thinking about my friends and wondering if they really liked me or not—it was exhausting.

The more I thought about my sin in this area the more and more I realized just how permeating it was:  How often do I seek others’ approval?  How often do I try to make myself seem more godly?  How often do I sin by making myself seem better than I am?  How often do I fear others–how often am I more afraid of what they think about me than of how my Creator and Savior thinks of me?  And how scary that last part of Galatians 1:10 is: if I’m trying to please others–if I’m “trimming my sails to every breeze of opinion and bias,” how can I be a bond-servant of the Lord who never changes!?

And then it hit me.  It’s my thought-life.  I am thinking crazy, crazy things.  So I studied and meditated upon Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever in honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worth of praise, dwell on these things.”

I know it sounds crazy, but I still felt like I just didn’t grasp the enormity of my sin—or the seriousness of it.  It was in this state that I went to a coffee date with the women of our small group.  I shared my struggle and my frustration with my sisters and one of them providentially recommended Pleasing People by Lou Priolo.  I got the book from our church resource center and sat down to read it.  From the very first pages I was hooked.  I couldn’t believe it.  It was as if Lou Priolo was inside my head.  I seriously couldn’t put the book down.

I had no idea that pleasing people was the sin that I struggled with most, but it certainly is.   I have always struggled with this sin—I have always sought my happiness in my reputation in front of others.  I have always looked for worth in the thoughts of others.  I was more concerned with what others thought of me than of what God thought of me.  For instance, the way that I was thinking about others—whether I was thinking good things or bad—shows that I was studying their lives in hopes of pleasing them by conforming my own life to theirs.  All I wanted was acceptance—for others to think I was worthy.  Unfortunately, it really doesn’t matter if others think I’m worthy or not—it only matters if God thinks I am.  I should be more focused on pleasing God than pleasing man.  The problem was that I was all-consumed with pleasing men.

In the first pages of the book there is a “People-Pleasing Inventory” quiz.  I was absolutely astonished by my results.  Those of you who know me well will find it hard to take this quiz and not be thinking, “wow!  Katie really DOES struggle with pleasing people!  This sounds just like her!!!”  Try not to!  Really concentrate on your own life and take an inventory of your own heart—see if perhaps you struggle with pleasing people more than pleasing God.  The more I study this sin the more I’m convinced most of us do struggle with it and that it is the branch from which many many other sins stem off.

Record the point value next to each statement that best represents the frequency that you do each action.

“RATING SCALE:                                           POINTS:

Never (or Hardly Ever) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5

Seldom . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4

Sometimes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3

Frequently . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

Always (or Almost Always) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1

1.     I listen with anxious attentiveness when others discuss that which pleases or displeases them. ____

2.     I strive to be politically correct more than biblically correct. ____

3.     I like to go “fishing” for compliments. ____

4.     I gossip about others to people whom I believe will be pleased with me for giving them such luscious tidbits of information. ____

5.     My desire for a good reputation is predominantly based on how such a reputation will benefit me rather than how that reputation will serve as a means to a greater end, such as the glory of God, the good of others, or some other unselfish objective. ____

6.     I value the approval of certain individuals for whom I expect to receive certain honors more than the approval of those from whom I do not expect to receive such honors. ____

7.     I worry about what people think of me. ____

8.     I am willing to sin rather than face the rejection of certain individuals. ____

9.     I struggle with being a respecter of persons and showing favoritism. ____

10.   I believe that being rejected is one of the worst things that a person could possibly experience. ____

11.   I avoid conflicts rather than trying to resolve them. ____

12.   I take unnecessary precautions to protect my good name. ____

13.   I become angry when I am contradicted by others, especially when being publically contradicted. ____

14.   When meeting new people, I spend more time thinking about how to impress them than how to minister to them. ____

15.   My fear of being rejected paralyzes me to the extent that it keeps me from getting close to others. ____

16.   I forget that being rejected by others is part of the “suffering for righteousness’ sake” that is my responsible service to God and part of my calling as a Christian. ____

17.   I long to be noticed more than I long to be godly. ____

18.   I give in to peer pressure rather than standing up for what I know is right. ____

19.   I do not witness to others as I should because I fear being criticized or rejected. ____

20.   I overreact to criticism by dwelling on it too long or unnecessarily allowing it to depress me. ____

Add up your score.  If your points fall between 96-100, you do not have a problem with people-pleasing—in fact, you probably have a problem with being insensitive, callous, or even hard hearted, and that’s a totally different issue!  If you scored between 90-95, you’re probably free from the love of approval.  If your total was between 80-89, you are probably a bit too concerned with the approval of others.  If you scored between 70-79, you may, in fact, be a bona-fide people pleaser.  If your score was 69 or below, you may very well be an approval addict. (You are probably somewhat enslaved to the approval of man).”

What did you score?  Based on your total points do you think you may have a problem?  Do you want to know what I scored?  Well.  I scored a 40.  That’s right. 4-0.  I was floored.  Completely knocked off my couch.  I couldn’t believe it.  I spent the next few days pouring over Pleasing People and my Bible studying tons of passages of scripture, learning the root issue (pride) of my idolatry and learning how to combat such a deep-seeded sin.

I’ll spare you the details of every page (if you think you might struggle with this sin, I cannot recommend this book enough—it has changed and is continuing to change my life), but here a few (ok, a lot) of the main points that Lou Priolo makes:

  • The people-pleaser fears displeasure of man more than God, and in turn, desires the praise of man above the praise of God.
  • The people-pleaser studies what it takes to please man as much (if not more than) what it takes to please God.
  • The people-pleaser’s speech is designed to entice and flatter others into thinking well of him.
  • The people-pleaser is a respecter of persons (some more than others).
  • The people-pleaser is oversensitive to correction, reproof, and other allusions of dissatisfaction or disapproval in the part of others.
  • The people-pleaser outwardly renders eye service to man rather than inwardly rendering sincere ministry to the Lord.
  • The people-pleaser selfishly uses wisdom, abilities, and gifts that have been given for God’s glory and the benefit of others for his own glory and personal benefit.
  • The people-pleaser invests more of his personal resources in establishing his own honor than God’s honor.
  • The people-pleaser is discontented with the condition and proportion that God has appointed for him.
  • Pride is the root sin behind people-pleasing.
  • Humility is the antidote (the “put on”) to pride.
  • The God-pleaser realizes he cannot please God apart from being a Christian.
  • The God-pleaser studies the scriptures to understand exactly what it takes to please God.
  • In everything, the God-pleaser is conscious of pleasing God.
  • When the God-pleaser does please people, he does so out of loving motives, not selfish ones.
  • The God-pleaser knows that it is “more blessed to give than to receive.”
  • The God-pleaser considers amending not only his (sinful) actions, but also his thoughts and motives.
  • The God-pleaser is concerned about fulfilling not only public duties but also private ones.
  • The God-pleaser is more concerned with what God sees in his heart than what man sees in his appearance.
  • The God-pleaser programs his conscience by the Bible rather than by culture.
  • The God-pleaser does not shy away from necessary conflict or confrontation.
  • The God-pleaser does not worry or fret when he displeases people if, by so doing, he pleases God.

There is so much more that I could write, but I already feel like I’ve said too much.  Lou goes on to tell his readers exactly what it takes to please God (as found in Scripture).  He writes about “putting on” humility in great detail, as well as servant hood (basically getting your focus off of yourself).  He gives practical ideas for killing the sin of pride—people-pleasing—in your life.  Finally, he ends with a “heart journal” which helps daily as you begin to get rid of people-pleasing in your life.

This is such a huge part of who I am, it’s been incredibly difficult to mortify and I find myself easily slipping back into a thought-life that is consumed with others.  God is so good to forgive those slips and to continue to teach me more and more about my heart in this area.  I can only do this in His strength, and it has been amazing to see my prayer (that I would not be in bondage to this sin anymore) begin to be answered as He helps me shift my focus off of myself and onto Him.

I was going to write about all the other things the Lord is currently teaching me: the importance of submission even when it comes to Tim’s preferences, contentment in any situation (big or small), how I get irritated (angry) in certain high-stress circumstances (another form of discontentment), and the real reason I’ve been doing P90X, why it’s not working the way I thought it would, and my heart when it comes to my body and weight.  However, now I feel like those things can wait for another day.

My heart behind writing this post is not to tell you, necessarily, just what God is doing in my life, although, obviously that’s part of it.  What I really want is for you to consider if you struggle with pleasing people like I do.  Like I said, as the Lord is teaching me more and more about this sin, I see that so many of my sinful habits relate back to pleasing people, and I can’t help but wonder if it’s the same for many others.  Really pray about your life—do you seek to please people more than God?  Ask the Lord to show you whether you do or not.  If you do struggle with this all-encompassing sin, I pray you consider reading Lou Priolo’s People Pleasing.  It continues to shape the way I think about my interactions with others as I seek the Lord’s approval and not yours!


3 Responses to “What God is Teaching Me | Who Do I Try to Please?”

  1. Sarah Taras said

    Ah, the realities of sin in our lives! :o) Reminds me of what a sweet and beautiful Savior we have! Take heart sweet sister, you are ALREADY pleasing to the Lord simply because of the blood of Jesus and that never changes!!! What a promise! What hope for us big losers who think too much on people and too little on the Lord! We are HIS BELOVED! That thought totally TRUMPS all other thoughts! I’m God’s daughter! BAM!!!! LOL! I love you! Thank you for your transparency and encouragement to get our eyes off ourselves!

  2. Sharon said

    WOW..AMEN, SISTER. How many wasted hours, days, months, years have I wasted replaying over and over again what I would have said to someone, what I should have said to someone, what they think of me, are they talking about me behind my back…it goes on and on and on. But, if I am setting my mind on heavenly things, knowing that my citizenship is in Heaven (therefore my love, devotion, thought- life, allegiance, and service as a DULOS or “slave” to Christ is consuming me), and I am awaiting the Savior, Jesus Christ the Lord, who will transform this body (and my world and my life) into His heavenly body (Phil 3:21)–then I don’t have much room “upstairs” to be thinking about others or mainly what they think of me.

    Thank you for your transparency. Thank you for sharing the importance of pleasing our Lord and Savior.. To please and obey should be motivated out of sheer thankfulness, devotion, and love to our Savior…like what I am trying to teach my daughter in eventually obeying not because she has to but because she desires to out of holy fear and love… NOT out of unholy fear (i.e. condemnation…”for we know there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ” Romans 8:1) and NOT out of selfishness (“Do nothing out of selfish ambition but with humility of mind, consider others more important than yourself.” Phil 2:3. Thank you, Katie! Hugs to you, sweet sister!!!

  3. I am so encouraged by your humility. I have struggled to be a people pleaser in the past and still sometimes to this day. The Lord has taught me alot. So much wisdom in this post! Thanks for sharing.

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