According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a people pleaser is “a person who has an emotional need to please others.” I am surprised that my picture isn’t right next to that definition because this has been a big problem in my life.
When I decided to take a closer look at myself and this issue, I discovered a hard truth. Most people pleasers are selfish, and I was no exception.
Sure, I cared about others. But that was not the driving force behind my decisions. I did things for other people so they would like me. I volunteered for all the jobs at my children’s schools so everyone would think I was a “together mom.”
I tried to make perfect dinners for my guests so they would think I was a good cook. I attempted (pretty big emphasis on attempt) to keep my house tidy so others would think I was a good housekeeper. At work, I offered ideas and went out of my way to help with projects so my coworkers would think I was smart. And when my relationships with family and friends were rocky, I spent a lot of time trying to fix them.
Quite simply, my motivation for almost everything I did was not in the right place. I was only worried about myself. My life was all about my selfish need to be accepted and admired by the world. I was living to please people, not God, and Jesus warns us against this throughout His Word. (See John 12:43; Galatians 1:10; Philippians 2:3–4.)
I can tell you the exact moment I realized this had to change.
I was stuck in a traffic jam and praying about a relationship I could not fix. No matter what I did, my relationship with this person remained broken. I was praying about how I wished this relationship could become an example of forgiveness and grace. And at that moment, the Lord prompted me, “Turn your heart to Me.”
As I type these words, they look absurdly simple and not a great epiphany. But truthfully, for me, they were. That moment is when I began to wonder what my life would look like if I focused more on God than I did worrying about what other people thought of me. More importantly, I wondered how it might strengthen my relationship with the Lord. (See Ecclesiastes 2:26; Colossians 1:10.)
I remembered the words to an old hymn by Helen Howarth Lemmel:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace
After that moment, I committed myself to more time with the Lord. I devoted myself to more intimate prayer time and reading and meditating on His Word. And as a result, I received overwhelming grace and mercy from the Father as I repented for my misplaced motives.
James 2:13 NIV says, “Mercy triumphs over judgment.” Oh, it does. Receiving God’s mercy for my sin helped me learn to ignore the opinions of others. Somehow, it became necessary to forgive those who might have unfairly judged me instead of working harder to gain their acceptance. As a result, my time sitting in the Lord’s presence became a blessing, new ministry opportunities opened, and I received a calming peace in my spirit.
Friend, if you struggle with people pleasing, I encourage you to “turn your eyes upon Jesus” today. The joy, peace, and mercy the Lord pours over you will be precious. You will experience His steadfast love as you walk in His faithfulness (Psalm 26:2–3), and you will notice that your concern for others’ needs will become more significant than your need for their approval.
Kristi Dews Dale is a wife and the mother of four amazing children. She holds a master’s degree in public health and is an adjunct business instructor at a local college.