Read: Romans 15:1-6
In every respect of the word, I am a people-pleaser. I have a very hard time saying “no,” I always try to make others happy (even if that means sacrificing my own wants or desires), and I often put myself in harm’s way to protect someone else’s feelings. I rarely ever vocalize what my own thoughts and opinions are. And, when I interact with people, I allow them to do most of the talking while I give a patient ear to their problems.
At first glance, this sounds exactly like what Paul calls the believer to pursue in Romans 15:1-6. Why do we view people-pleasing as a negative thing? The answer is actually quite simple. People-pleasing is an altruistic mask of self-preservation and, ultimately, selfishness. Let me explain. For me, my people-pleasing mentality comes from a place of fear, guardedness, and self-deprecation, even while, outwardly, portrayed as kindness and well-mannered compassion.
See the problem here? While may outward expression of people-pleasing may not always be negative, the inward motivation always originates in my self. I am afraid to be the subject of someone’s anger, and therefore, I swallow my opinions and desires. I want to flee from confrontation, and therefore, I refuse to tell people when they are living in sin, ignoring any hard truth the Lord may want me to communicate. I am fearful of rejection and lost relationships, and therefore, I always seek to do what everyone else wants me to do.
So if this is not the kind of “pleasing” that Paul implores us to pursue, how are we to live? Paul gives us the answer in Romans 15:1-2. He implores us to “bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build, him up” (emphasis added). In all things, we must focus our attention and energy on others before we focus on ourselves. In other words, we must pursue humility. A cliche, but true definition of humility is “not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” In fact, we must have a dignified view of ourselves in Christ first before we can ever be humble.
If we do not understand how valuable we are in Christ, we will approach “pleasing” from a place of fear, guardedness, and self-deprecation. I know that I often have! We must realize how unworthy we are that Christ came and emptied himself for us. Only when we know how wretched we are without Jesus will we be able to please people from a place of pure selflessness and humility. By recognizing the equal value of all humans in Christ, we will be able to flee from people-pleasing, which destroys both parties involved and pursue (instead) a Romans 15 kind of pleasing. By knowing who we are in Christ and how unworthy we are of his love, we will better be able to bear with others’ failings, commit to not pleasing ourselves, and build others up for their good, which truly honors the Lord.
Do your attempts to please people come from a place of self, or a place of others and Christ? How can you better pursue humility this week? The best way to learn what true humility looks like is to look long and hard at the life of Christ!