June 9, 2011

Question: How Do You Avoid People-Pleasing?

One reader asked:
What are your words of wisdom to a minister's wife-to-be who wants to grow in her fear of the Lord and decrease in her fear of man? What a determent to my husband's ministry I would be if my underlying motive were to be a people pleaser rather than a God pleaser. Only the Holy Spirit's progressive sanctifying influence can change my heart in this matter, but perhaps you can encourage me on the way.

What's your advice? How do you avoid people-pleasing?

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  1. This is a continual struggle. One habit to cultivate: refuse to guess what people are "really" saying/thinking. So often we are not merely trying to please people, we are trying to please what we think those people might possibly be wanting. If we take people at their best motives and believe what they actually say, we won't be driving ourselves crazy trying to de-code some secret message and then live by it.

  2. I commend you for wanting to please God and not man. You are right to look to the Holy Spirit for help. Please continue to regularly remind yourself where your righteousness lies. As I heard in a sermon, "they (people) are not your righteousness."
    On a practical note, I try to "consider the source." Is this a person who finds fault with everyone and everything? If so, don't take it personally. Is this someone who loves and serves the church and is generally quite supportive of your husband's ministry? Maybe he/she is having a bad day. Passion for an important issue might be driving him/her. Is this a trusted Christian friend? It could be iron sharpening iron.
    Best wishes to you as you embark on this noble calling.

  3. After God, your first duty is to please your husband by caring for him and your family. You and he together will need to figure out what that means in regards to your involvement in church duties and interaction with the members. Some women can do more than others in the church while caring for their families. If you operate under his guidance, you will not need to fear what others may (or may not) be thinking. And the above writer is right in advising you to not attribute motives to others and to speak and act only on what is actually said or done. Sometimes we have rigid guidelines for ourselves which we cannot possibly live up to. When we perceive failure in ourselves we can be tempted to project that into our dealings with other when they really have no problem with us at all.

  4. I'm coming in late on the conversation, but this is a subject that I work on every day, I think! A book that has greatly helped me: When People Are Big and God is Small by Ed Welch. He looks at 'people pleasing' as a fear of man/sin issue and really gets at the heart of the matter. I highly recommend this book!
    And I also agree with the first commenter: Don't assume you know what people are thinking! This gets me in trouble all the time, well, hopefully less than before!

  5. KatStrange and CristyLynn: I totally agree that in this fallen world, we have to view everything as a reason to examine our own hearts. I can resonate with KatStrange in that I often feel defensive about my own sins and project them onto others. And, I'm sure my small thoughts about God don't help either, CristyLynn.


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