Decisions I have made and actions I have taken have largely been based on what I thought other people would expect me to do. I judge that, for some reason not known to me, this affliction particularly troubles women, who seem to feel more susceptible to scrutiny than men. In general, there is a pressure upon women to be liked, to be accepted, to fit in and to please others on a day-to-day basis.
Pleasing others, in itself, is not a bad thing, as it is surely good to consider the feelings of others and try to make them happy. The problem I found is that the more I tried to please people, the more dissatisfied I became. I would be frustrated at my inability to do what I actually wanted to do and felt totally inadequate when comparing myself to others. My actions were based on trying to gain favour from others in order to make me feel good about myself and, inevitably, that contentment never came.
“You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realised how seldom they do” (Eleanor Roosevelt).
One thing I have learned, is that I can never please all of the people, all of the time. This does not mean there is no point in trying, but I do think it is important to ask the question, “Who am I trying to please and why?” In seeking favour from others, am I trying to appease my own insecurities and stroke my own ego? If my sense of self-worth is based solely on what other people think of me, I will be sadly disappointed as people will always let me down. There is potentially a deeper problem, though; in trying to please others, I may have taken my focus off enjoying my relationship with God and pleasing Him.
“For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men?” (Galatians 1:10).
Instead of anxiously seeking the approval of others and fearing rejection, I need to rest in the security that I have in Christ, knowing that I am accepted by Him despite all my failings. My worth does not come from what I do but what God has already done and is doing in my life. I need to understand that my need for approval can only be met by the one who will never stop loving me. I do not need to do anything to merit His love and His love does not change as a result of my actions. If I have a true appreciation of what God has done for me, I will seek to live for His glory and not my own.
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
Trying to please people is commendable and can be rewarding but should never be my ultimate goal and certainly should not be motivated by my own need for acceptance. Pleasing God and seeking His approval will give me a far greater peace because it shifts the focus from me to Him. The Lord Jesus was the perfect example of doing good to others but ultimately everything He did was to please His Father. Let’s try to remember we do not need the approval of others to live a fulfilled life. To be truly blessed, we need to be obedient to Him and this will in turn give us true compassion for, and therefore bring blessing to, those around us.
“When a man’s ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him” (Proverbs 16:7).