I spent twenty two years of my life as a people pleasing machine. I was good. I mean it. You would have loved me. Then God showed me my heart, and began to make me into something new. I am still not completely rebuilt into His Son’s image, and I still struggle with the tendency to fall back into my sinful ways. As such, I frequently have to confess what the Puritan pastor, Richard Baxter, would have called excessive man pleasing. I hate that term, which is why I also like it. I hope you feel the same tension.
I am writing this article as a pastor to the church. As I look out and survey the state of the church in America I see a pattern of shallow relationships and deft accountability avoidance. We have adopted a consumerist approach to the Christian life which values relational breadth over spiritual depth, calm spirits over gospel peace, and happy parishioners over holy nations. We have bowed our knee to the spirit of the age: non-confrontational, non-committal, religious people pleasing.
Heavy, I know, but read further. It gets happier.
Below are listed eleven confessions pretty common among my fellow pleasers and I. Read them and see if they sound like you, and if they sound applicable to you, don’t feel bad; just keep reading until you get to the less common, but far more important, twelfth confession.
- I deeply desire the pleasure of God, but I feed off the pleasure of people.
- I want to do what is right, and after I do, I want you to notice it, admire it, and tell your friends about it. Praise the Lord for Facebook!
- I want people to be happy, not holy.
- Although I talk about what is right, I settle for people saying I’m right.
- I frequently find peace, because I fervently flee conflict.
- I spend an inordinate amount of time considering how you will finish this sentence, “[Whitney](insert your name) is . . .”
- The amount of attention someone gets from me varies directly with the amount of praise I get from them.
- Although I am called to fish for men, I usually set my bait for compliments.
- I might accidentally trample the gospel, but I will never step on your toes.
- I am a constant encourager. . . to your face.
- I will never tell you no, and sometimes I keep my word.
I want you to read over those and ask yourself if they could apply to you as well as me. It would really make me feel better if they did (yes, that was a test). If they apply to you, then ignore what I wrote earlier – you should feel bad (never trust a people pleaser). Let conviction wash over you like a salty, bitter wave. After you are finished sputtering out the bitterness of your sin, I invite you to make the following confession:
- Jesus is King, and I serve Him.
This simple confession, if believed and followed, has the potential to revolutionize your heart, your personality, and ministry. Confess Jesus as your King and stop bowing to the capricious god of public approval. When you learn to serve the one, true King you will find the peace you have been faking, joy you have been missing, and love that cannot be earned – not by you anyways. Jesus earned the Father’s pleasure; by His grace, you get to enjoy it.