rebelling against low expectations

Stop Being a People-Pleaser


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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Photo courtesy of Ardinnnn via photopin (license).


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About the author

Kelsey Kaleb

Kelsey is twenty-five year old, Atlanta-native missionary, serving in East Africa with her husband. She loves everything about missions and Africa, and has never lost her love and passion for writing.


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  • Kelsey, this is so good! My dad told me once to live for God and myself, and that’s it. I thought it was great advice. One of my resolutions this year was to live completely unencumbered by the expectations of others, and just focus on God. I really appreciate this article!

  • Thank you for this reminder Kelsey! So often I can get caught up trying to find my happiness in pleasing others, instead of the one place it actually comes from — Jesus. We shouldn’t be subject to other’s whims, but instead be servants of Him! Thank you so very much for this fantastic article and reminder today!

  • Thanks for writing this! This is something that I personally struggle with too often. This is exactly what I needed to hear. I loved when you said “There is nothing you can do in order to make everyone happy.” It shows how futile our efforts are!

  • I’m guessing almost everyone on here has or is a people pleaser just like me. It is really (upsetting, frustrating) when people don’t listen to you. I struggle with it when ever I see my friends. (I’m homeschooled that is.) 😉

    • And you’re like constantly reading into things. Is this person as friends with me as I am with them? Are they like comparing me to other friends? What if they don’t actually like me? Aaaaa! And it’s so overwhelming. And you’re so self-focused–and the other person doesn’t even realize this–and you’re not really even focused on the other person.

      I’m homeschooled too. But I don’t think it’s just a homeschooler thing! 😉 We all deal with it–most of us probably even daily.

  • This article was exactly what I needed to hear. 😀 I sometimes struggle with pleasing others rather than God so this article was very helpful for me and is well written.

  • The thing is even when we’re trying to be people pleasers often we’re thinking more about people’s perceptions of us instead of actually loving them–It’s just another form of selfishness, not love.

  • Thanks or writing this article Kelsey. I have to admit, it is extremely easy to become a people-pleaser, but harder to be a God-pleaser. Thanks

    • Hey Robert! Honestly, I would start by praying. Praying that God would help you to live for Him, and for Him to help clear your mind of thoughts about what other people might think. Its just one of those things that you really are just going to have to practice and train yourself in. Its hard, I get it.

  • Yes. It’s so sad. Often I find myself walking the hallways at my school, amazed by how many people I see that I don’t know. I realize just how self-focused I have been – so worried about how people see me that I don’t see them. It’s amazing, and I need to do something about it.

By Kelsey Kaleb
rebelling against low expectations

The Rebelution is a teenage rebellion against low expectations—a worldwide campaign to reject apathy, embrace responsibility, and do hard things. Learn More →