I have a confession to make: I am a people pleaser.
I care deeply and passionately about people and what they think of me.
That means I hate it when others are mad at or disappointed in me.
I want people to like me.
People-pleasing is a common characteristic and goal in our culture. But that begs the question: is it good to live for the approval of others?
A few weeks ago, I was thinking through different ideas for my next article, and I decided to ask one of my student pastors for his opinion. I asked him something like this, “What do you think Christian teens/young people need to hear today?”
He didn’t miss a beat.
He began talking about people-pleasing, and living and working for others’ approval. He also told me about his favorite Bible verse, Galatians 1;10. This is what it says:
“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
Are you trying to live for people or for God? Which one is best?
The Root of People-Pleasing
Why do we want to please people? Why do we devote our time, work, and thoughts to making other people like us?
Because we like it when people like us. We want to feel appreciated. When people like us, it makes us happy.
Did you catch that? We want to be liked because it makes us happy.
It makes us feel satisfied and content — at least, for a little while. But just like the rest of the things of this world, our happiness doesn’t last.
If that’s the reason why we want to please people, what are the costs of living for approval?
We love to make others happy, and most of the time, we are willing to work for it. I am desperately guilty of this. I will do just about anything in order to have other people’s approval.
But let me tell you something.
There is nothing you can do in order to make everyone happy.
Not one. It is impossible to make everybody happy. It will never happen. When we try to make everyone pleased with us, we pour ourselves out, and we come up up empty. It’s not worth it. It’s not worth our time, our energy, or our money.
Now, I’m not saying that we should never try to make people happy. We should. We need to be loving on people, and showing them the light of the world.
It’s when we make people-pleasing our first priority that it becomes a problem. That’s because our first priority should be pleasing God, not others.
Be a God-Pleaser
Why should we want to please God? Short answer: because He is God.
He is the Creator of the world and everything in it. He is our Father. Our Protector. The Rock on which we are able to build our lives.
Why should we want to please Him? Because He sent His only Son to die for us. He sacrificed His life for us, so that He could adopt us as His sons and daughters.
We should want to please God because we are His children, and we want to do it to the best of our ability.
But how do we please God? We can’t do that on our own. No matter how hard we work, no matter how hard we try to be good, we will always fall short. We are imperfect, and it is impossible for us to please a perfect God on our own.
We please God not by obsessing over works, but by being with God.
A. W. Tozer puts it this way:
“We please Him most, not by frantically trying to make ourselves good, but by throwing ourselves into His arms with all our imperfections and believing that He understands everything–and still loves us.”
We please God when we spend time with Him. When we acknowledge that He is God. When we serve others for Him, because He first served us. When we obey Him and listen to His Word. When we sacrifice our lives for others, and for His glory.
God-Pleasers in the Bible
When you think about it, we are not the only generation of Christians that is trying to please God instead of others. The Bible is filled with stories of people who could have chosen to make others happy, but didn’t. Let’s look at just two of them.
Noah: When God asked Noah to build the ark, Noah obeyed. As he began to build, people laughed at him. He was mocked and taunted. But did that stop him from doing what God had called him to do? Absolutely not. He kept pushing to please God, and in the end, Noah and his family were able to survive the flood.
David: When he was just a young boy, David fought the most feared warrior, Goliath, by himself. All David had was a couple of stones and a sling, but he knew God was on his side. Everyone else was terrified of Goliath and wouldn’t even try to fight him. Yet that didn’t stop David from living for God’s approval.
Living For God is Worth It
Living for God is worth so much more than living for others. Human approval is fickle and temporary, but God, He is eternal. May we fix our eyes not on the acceptance of others, but on God’s. It’s hard, I get it.
But it’s not impossible, because nothing is impossible with God.
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