In a recent interview a famous actress described herself as, “eager to please.” The young actress was thrust into the spotlight when she landed a part in a hugely successful film series. She told the interviewer, “I am a people pleaser. I was just so desperate to please everyone – please both my parents, do really well on the film, please my school. Sometimes I felt like I was being ripped into about five pieces.” Success, wealth and fame did not bring about peace of heart and mind.
People pleasers are usually quite insecure because they live in fear of what others think or say. They are insecure in their identity and have become lost to who they really are. Like the chameleon they change according to their environment. People pleasers think negatively and have negative expectations so they become slaves to the opinion others.
Christians are not exceptions from the compulsion to constantly please people around them. They often live within their comfort zone in order to avoid confrontation, aiming never to give offence or get angry, and then becoming over-responsible. They doubt their self-worth, and because they have a desperate need for approval, fear to say, “No.” Because they believe love and acceptance is earned they live under the lie that they need to do something to gain the love and acceptance of God. But God’s love is unconditional; freely given, through the Lord Jesus, as a gift of grace.
Our text for today is a challenge. It asks questions. Whose approval do I seek? Who am I living to please? It makes it clear that it’s impossible to live as a people pleaser and please the Lord. The issue is about motives. At the heart of people pleasing there are ulterior motives of wanting to be liked, gain acceptance or status. In the final analysis as people pleasers we are pleasing ourselves.
The Bible makes it clear that it’s impossible to live as a people pleaser and please the Lord. To try to reconcile the two aspects causes inner conflict. Jesus is our example of how to live. He said, ‘I seek not to please myself but Him who sent me’ (John 5:30). Jesus also said, ‘The One who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases Him’ (John 8:29).
Jesus always and only did what pleased His Father. He obeyed His Father whatever the cost, and consequently He didn’t fear the confrontation that His pure motives brought Him into. I wonder if the antidote to so many of our fears would be found if we lived as Jesus lived; pleasing our Father in heaven, irrespective of the consequences. I believe this truly is what He requires of all His children.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for Jesus who is our perfect example of how to live. Please purify my heart of all ulterior motives. Please fill me with the enabling power of the Holy Spirit so that my aim will always be to please You whatever people may say or think of me. Amen.
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