The Tyranny of People-pleasing: Stifling God in Your Life
Inspiration for this teaching fell on me in church this past Sunday when I became aware of someone I know who is making inferior choices because of the fear of someone else’s opinion. In my counseling and in my seminars I often have the need to address the tyranny of people-pleasing.
My scripture reference is II Corinthians 10:12, For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.
Everyone likes to be liked. We are born with a primary need to love. But a more driving need from being born into a natural world is the need to BE loved. That is why I call rejection the king of all wounds, because rejection violates our need to be loved.
Rejection is horrible. Nobody likes it. But we all suffer at the cruel realities of rejection.
But living successfully, or functionally, requires that we live above the tyranny of rejection. Especially as believers in Christ who have been given all the greatest reasons in the world to live above the power of rejection, we must conquer—not rejection—but rejection as a master over our lives, decisions, relationships, and influences. I often say,Rejection IS, meaning that likely every day has some form of rejection lurking. Therefore, again, it is not rejection we need to master, by finding countless ways to dodge it, but the power of rejection to master us. It is what we let rejection do to us that matters.
Yet, time and time again, I encounter believers who are mastered by the fear of rejection, and it translates into a lifestyle of people-pleasing.
Living to be liked—people-pleasing—is not in itself wrong. In its place people-pleasing has virtuous names like courtesy, flexibility, servanthood, compliance. But people-pleasing is also a dastardly foe to productive living.
What Will People Think
People-pleasers process most of what they do through the filter, What will people think?Many, if not most, people pleasers have been this way most or all of their life, and don’t even know how controlling their people-pleasing tendencies are. It becomes so much a part of them that they don’t even see it controlling their choices and behaviors.
Shall I Point the Finger?
I was born with the same need as you—to be loved. Yet, though I feel I have overcome people-pleasing as a master in my life to a high degree, I am, at this stage of my life, battling new challenges, and stronger challenges to the foe called rejection. For me, it is translating into the question, How much am I willing to risk for the Lord despite the consequences of others judging me, criticizing me, or trying to shut me down?”
What is so bad about people-pleasing? Ultimately, it is an identity issue. People-pleasing simply defined is choosing to deny my own heart to avoid the pain of rejection. People-pleasing is not the kind of self-denial that Jesus referred to—putting self aside out of love for others. People-pleasing is self-denial out of love for self. Also, I could tweak the previous definition and say that people-pleasing is choosing to qualify whether or not I will obey God based on the risk of rejection.
Here are few examples of the tyranny of people-pleasing (with changed names):
- Josh didn’t leave the church to go to the church he felt God was calling him to because he was afraid of his father’s reaction. Two years later he was dry spiritually and fell into lust.
- Elaine knew two weeks before the wedding that she was marrying the wrong person, but went ahead with it because of the fear of man. Her marriage has always been an intense struggle.
- Dave, a pastor, did not confront someone who was spiritually abusing others in the church because of the fear of consequences.
- Alicia was part of a conversation in which someone she loves was being falsely accused and slandered. Because of fear of people, she didn’t stick up for her friend.
- When Tim is with others he is accommodating to others who are bold to share their opinions and beliefs, but Tim will never share his if he thinks they others won’t agree fully with him.
I could write thousands of examples, but I think you can get the idea from the five above.
What About the Pain?
Victory over rejection is not necessarily victory over the pain of rejection. Rejection comes from so many sources, and it hurts. But don’t bow to the pain and let it master or shut down the real you. Take the pain to the cross, forgive those who rejected you, but don’t let them take away your God-given identity.
So, What Do I Do?
First, go before the Lord and ask Him to reveal where you are being a people pleaser. Perhaps ask Him to show you where your agreement with people- pleasing came from.Next, break your agreement with people-pleasing as your master. Renounce people-pleasing as a sin. Ask God to give you courage to obey Him no matter what the cost.Then, be aware of a continued revelation of where you may have become a people-pleaser, and expect God to set you free.
I recently talked with a man who has just finished reading You’ve Been Tweeked! for the third time. It’s a quick read—a fable about what causes some people to succeed and others to fail—a great book for a struggling teen. Give it to someone facing despair, depression, or low self-worth.
Ruthie and I will be putting more teachings on line in the future, but check out the challenges to men that I taught in recent men’s meetings. Type Bruce Lengeman in the search bar, and click on the teaching of your choice.