The Challenges of Being a “People-Pleaser”

The other day, my dad shared something he remembered about me as a child that surprised me. But then, as I thought about it further, I realized that it is absolutely true and it is what has caused me so much misery through these past years of blogging. God has been helping me understand this about myself recently and has also given me greater insight in how to deal with it. I am sharing here because I thought this might also be of benefit to other “people-pleasers”.

We were talking about the grandkids (my dad’s great grandkids) and their personalities when he suddenly mentioned how different my brother and I were. I was so sensitive and wanted to please people as opposed to my brother, who never really cared what people thought about him.

I am not sure why but a light bulb went on in my head. Finally.

You see, since I have been blogging and I guess for my whole life, I have had a great desire to adhere to God’s truth and to share it with others. Because the truth is so important to me, I can see often see when there is false doctrine afoot or when someone is twisting scripture. (I don’t do this perfectly, of course.)

However, this desire to share truth is in direct conflict with my innate desire to make people happy. Since people often don’t want to hear the truth, I find myself not always pleasing them. I’ve never thought about myself as a people-pleaser but as I have reflected on my dad’s words, I can see that this is what has caused me so much heartache throughout my life. Especially since I’ve been publicly blogging.

You see, I have often noticed people that I’ve counted as friends and even acquaintances take a step back from me. They start avoiding me. They won’t make eye contact. Or they just act like I’m no longer on the planet. Or blog readers just disappear. A fellow blogger became a friend (I thought) and then poof! Just like that she disappeared. I still have no idea why.

There’s been no conversation or discussion so I often surmise that it must have been something I wrote (or said). Since I am never given the opportunity to actually find out what it exactly is that I’ve said or wrote that offended them, I am at a loss to fix it.

This has caused me incredible turmoil through the years and I will tell you why. It is because I have absolutely no way of knowing if someone is upset with me because of some truth they read (or heard me say) OR if I have done something sinful.

The questions that I repeat over and over again to myself when this happens are: Did I do something wrong? Did I write something that wasn’t biblical? Did I say it in a way that was unloving? Did I make a big deal out of something that shouldn’t have been a big deal? Father, have I sinned against Thee?

These go round and round and round in my head whenever someone so obviously backs away from me. And, contrary to what many people think about me, I don’t enjoy this. I HATE conflict. I HATE making people unhappy. I HATE when people don’t like me.

So why do I keep doing what I do? It’s because I care about pleasing God more than I hate people not liking me. I care more about God’s Word than I do about offending people. And it’s because so many of you have reached out and told me how the Growing4Life posts have encouraged and helped you. It’s because, for whatever reason, God has given me this platform and I want to faithfully accomplish what He has given me to accomplish.

But there is this dreadful uncertainty in the midst of all of this. Do people disappear because I have sinned or do they disappear because they didn’t like a particular truth I mentioned? I have spent hours in agony over this question. I am not exaggerating.

If people don’t like me for speaking truth then so be it. Scripture makes it clear that this is the price we should expect to pay. But if they don’t like me because of something sinful I did, then I must fix something. But what is it? Because it’s just easier to disappear than to have a conversation, I am rarely given the opportunity to know just what is going on.

Sometimes God will reveal something to me and I will apologize to someone. Or I will go back and change a sentence or two in a blog post. But that question still haunts me. Because if I had my choice, everyone would like me.

As I thought about this yet again a few weeks ago and spent a morning in turmoil, I finally, by the grace of God, found peace. For the first time since I started writing publicly, I found peace regarding the disappearing readers and friends.

And this is what I wanted to share with you. I hope it is an encouragement to those of you who have people-pleasing personalities like mine.

A week or two ago, as I once again sat agonizing over this, wondering if I have sinned against someone, it suddenly hit me. I can do nothing if people aren’t willing to share with me why they are offended.

My responsibility is to humbly surrender and change as God reveals things to me. But if someone is offended and they won’t share that with me, then there is really nothing I can do. I am helpless to make them happy or to be at peace with them, because they have found it easier just to walk away.

At that point I am not responsible. As long as I am living out Romans 12:18 (As much as it depends on you, live peaceably with all men), there is nothing further I can do. The fact that Paul even wrote that verse shows that it is not always possible to be at peace with all men.

This is all compounded by the fact that, over the past few years, a rather strange new thing has entered our culture: We only like those with whom we agree. This change is extremely sad and causes so much division and heartache.

So I’d like to just go on record to say that I still like you even if we don’t agree about everything. I count you as a friend even if you and I differ on eschatology or how we view a specific Christian teacher. And if you can show me, from scripture, why I should change my view, I’ll change it. I am always open to discussion. I never want to be hard-headed or the kind that needs to prove I’m right. If scripture is clear that I am wrong, I am not too proud to admit it.

And, quite frankly, it is those of you that have kindly shared your disagreements with me who have led me to really dig deeper into the Word to clarify and confirm what I have said I believe. I am thankful for those of you with whom I can have candid and kind discussions. This is how we sharpen one another. This is how the family of God is supposed to work.

And, so, that is just a brief look into the window of my heart. I have made myself rather vulnerable with this post but I do so because I believe we are going to face this dilemma more and more as we stand for the truth of the Bible. It’s growing increasingly unpopular and I believe we are going to please people less and less as we cling tenaciously to God and His Word. We people-pleasers will have to come to grips with this.

So may we stand firm. May we unapologetically proclaim the truth of God’s Word–all of it! The pleasant parts and the not-so-pleasant parts. And may we humbly acknowledge when we have sinned, repent, brush ourselves off, and begin again.

 

8 thoughts on “The Challenges of Being a “People-Pleaser””

  1. Margaret Fleming

    Thank you for your openness and for sharing, there is a lot to learn from our journey. We all need each other to help with our journey.

  2. I am a people pleaser too! I have many times wished I could be someone who did not care what others thought, but that’s not my personality. I wonder, like you, why so and so is no longer my friend. We have so many great memories together! And why did that drop off happen? So much of your post contains things I’ve done myself. Including once again reminding myself that the Lord is who really matters. I must please Him above all else. If people choose not to like me (or respond to texts/phone calls/cards), I really can’t control what they do. It’s hurtful, but I have to not dwell on it (so hard!) and let God take care of it. And focus on Him. It’s a daily struggle sometimes. I appreciate your post and transparency! Thank you!

  3. Thank you for sharing how you have wrestled with people pleasing and how God’s word has enabled you to find peace with this aspect of your personality. I am a people pleaser who often keeps quiet rather than gently attempting to turn a conversation to the truth. My daughter is similar but has learned that to be consistent she has had to risk friendships breaking. It’s hard, but better people hear the truth once – even if they reject it – rather than Christians staying silent and being complicit in their sin/wrong thinking.

    1. That’s such a great point, Allison. I think there are many temptations in this area that depend much on our personalities. So important to see our selfishness/sins and ask the Lord to help us overcome them—Whether it’s talking in a wrong tone or being unwilling to speak up or something else. (Don’t you just love when your child learns a lesson you just wish you would have learned at their age?? 😊)

  4. I haven’t received anything from you lately, not sure if it’s a problem on my end or if you’re taking a break. Miss you.

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