Some people seem to never struggle with an excessive desire to please other people. Their vulnerability is in the other direction. "I don’t care what anyone else thinks!" a woman told me once. Well, I guess she didn’t. With that remark, she walked out on her marriage and two young adolescent children. Hmmm.
Meanwhile, others of us as wrestle with the opposite attitude. "I just don’t want to upset anyone." Consequently, we care too much about what others think.
All of this can be rather difficult to sort through. Sure, Jesus warned some people who seemed more intent on pleasing people than pleasing God (John 5:41-44). Later Paul, in discussing his motivation for ministry, said, "…we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the Gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts" (1 Thess. 2:4).
No, I don’t want to be a person who is preoccupied with pleasing other people.
But the answer is not for a person to live autonomously and to no longer take others under consideration. Paul seems to indicate that some consideration may be very appropriate. "We who are strong ought go bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up" (Romans 15:1-2).
The issue becomes, "How do I best exalt Christ?" Am I going to be focused on what others think? And–perhaps be focused on staying in control and exalting myself. Or, am I going to be focused on doing or saying whatever I want? Again–a person can get wrapped up with self-exaltation with that one as well.
We were living in Kansas City and I was seeing the counselor I mentioned at the first of this post. I was having an extremely difficult time in my ministry. It was a very stressful time of life. I looked forward to this time with this counselor every two weeks. He really helped me deal with this issue.
- I learned to expect more from God and less from people.
- I began to look for God for affirmation instead of primarily getting this from other people.
- I started seeing every good thing in life as a gift from God instead of seeing it as something I deserved or required.
- I sought to receive my self-worth from God instead of insisting on getting it from others.