I’ve been reminded lately of this pesky little false commandment that gets stuck in our minds: “Thou shalt please others.” Wherever we go and whoever we are with, we somehow default to believing this made-up commandment. It can control us. It can put us in bondage. It’s restricting. It causes anxiety and worry. It makes us rethink everything and replay situations over and over in our heads till we figure out what we did.
Another way to look at this is we all want to be liked and approved of by everyone. I OFTEN fall into this trap and am enchained by wanting others to like me. I struggle with this in my friendships, in social settings, at work, and even in my family. The bondage I feel from wanting to be liked by others isn’t anyone else’s fault but my own. I put these expectations on myself. I want to be liked by everyone. I want to please everyone. I don’t want to let anyone down.
But there is a HUGE difference between pleasing others and loving others.
Pleasing others is doing something because you don’t want them to be disappointed in you or because you want them to like you. It’s really about yourself. Loving others is putting their interests before your own. So it’s not about getting their approval. It’s about loving and serving them. A friend had a horrible day? Take them out to get coffee! But don’t feel like you have to get coffee with everyone and their mom just because they ask you and you want them to like you. Keep priorities in line, your health, and where God wants you to invest your time.
When my goal is to please everyone, I become stifled and confused trying to figure out what I should do. When my goal is to please others, I lose my identity. My identity is now placed on what others think of me. So, when I do something that lets someone down or is disapproved of, my identity becomes “the one who is disapproved of” or even “failure”.
Geez. That sounds pretty bad, but I still think trying to please others is worse than how I can even describe it in this post.
“Thou Shalt Please Others” is OPPOSITE of what God wants us to do. We may think, “Oh, but it’s a good thing that I want to make others happy and pleased.” But it is actually an entrapment that God wants us to run away from. Why? Because we are living our lives based on what other people think instead of based on what God thinks.
You know what, God may want you to say no when that person asks you to volunteer or give your time to help because He has something better for YOU. He may want you to spend some time alone instead of hanging out with a friend. He may want you to say no to a good thing because he has a better thing for you. Your no’s to those may not be what they want to hear and it may disappoint them, but you aren’t their servant. You are God’s servant. And that is such a freeing truth.
This is revolutionary.
If my goal on this earth was to live for others, I WOULD BE MISERABLE! I would never amount to what others want from me. I have so many flaws and shortcomings. It is inevitable that I will let people down. But that’s not where my identity and hope is found. My hope and identity is in Christ. And he has given me a perfect identity no matter how many times I let him or others down. So why would I want to give that identity up just because I want others to like me?