Problems with People Pleasing Part 2

Last Tuesday’s article was about Problems with People Pleasing. Today we pick up where we left off with this question:

What is the difference between being a people-pleaser and being a sacrificial servant of Christ?

First of all, on the outside, those two people may look exactly the same. Their actions and behavior might appear identical. They both wear themselves out for others. Think of the apostle Paul, he was truly a sacrificial servant of Christ, not a people-pleaser. He did, however, wear himself out for others.

I will most gladly spend and be expended for your souls. If I love you more, am I to be loved less? (2 Corinthians 12:15)

Paul was not a people-pleaser, but because he loved Jesus Christ, he was  a sacrificial servant for others. There is a profound difference.

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10)

Furthermore, being a people pleaser is ultimately all about you.

You don’t want conflict. You don’t want negative emotions. When your motivation is about people liking you and not being disappointed in you, the focus is you. Refusing to say “No” is about you. Maintaining that illusion of harmony is self-centered, not God-centered. Being a people-pleaser is about craving acceptance and approval from people, not about being secure in your relationship with Jesus Christ.

Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. (John 12:42-43)

What we get down to is motive and heart.

  • Why am I doing _______ or committing to __________?
  • Why am I sacrificing time, energy, and resources for this?
  • Am I seeking people’s approval or God’s approval?
  • Am I serving out of guilt, doing “penance” for my past mistakes? Or am I serving others out of a gratefulness to God?
  • Why am I uncomfortable with others’ negative emotions around me?

Think about it. Are you “complete in Him,” (Colossians 2:9-10), or are you complete in having people like you?

We will discuss this more next Tuesday and the implications it has for marriage.

Problems with People Pleasing

What is a people pleaser? What are the problems with people pleasing?

You seek to take away any conflict, any negative emotion, or any discomfort of those around you.  Life for you consists of exhausting yourself to make everyone around you happy. Serve any need. Anytime someone asks you to do anything, you say “Yes.” The thought of saying “No” brings such stress and anxiety because you do not want to disappoint people or hurt their feelings. That might translate to people not liking you…perish the thought! They will not accept you or approve of you, and that is the last thing in the world you want. You would rather be bankrupt and bedridden as a result of sacrificing yourself than to entertain the thought of saying “No” to those around you.

If those words define you, then my friend, you are a people pleaser.

For some, this isn’t a problem, but for others it is like a disease or an addiction. It brings great damage to relationships. A people-pleasing husband will seek to avoid conflict and uncomfortable conversations with his wife. He will just keep serving and enabling her hurtful behavior. Any negative emotion she has, he tries to deal with quickly to eliminate it. What results is an illusion of harmony, not intimacy. A people-pleasing father will try to be his kid’s best friend and buddy, because he wants to avoid any negative emotions. He wants his children to like him, but it results in them not respecting him.

The people pleaser will be the person that everyone says is a great guy and has a servant’s heart. Inside, however, he is falling apart. His bitterness and resentment is growing because he feels like others constantly take advantage of him. He smiles on the outside and is the dutiful soldier to give of himself, but is his heart really in it?

I am going to write more about this next Tuesday, men, but for now I want you to meditate on a question:

What is the difference between being a people-pleaser and being a sacrificial servant of Christ?

My “Perfect” Life

Happy Anniversary – My “Perfect” Life

All you married couples, have you ever felt the pressure? You know what pressure I mean, the pressure for a “perfect” relationship. And “perfect” is defined in many different ways by many different sources. It starts when we are very young, watching all the Disney movies where the characters find their “one true love” and live “happily ever after”. Every young girl grows up looking for her knight in shining armor to sweep her off her feet. The pressure continues to be applied by romance novels, romantic comedies, TV sitcoms, reality TV like the Bachelor, and every other form of media you can think of.

By the time we are young adults we’ve been convinced that there is one true “soulmate” out there for us and like Jerry Maguire we want the one person that “completes us”. Once we meet that special someone our attention turns to the “perfect” proposal (captured on video and spread over all forms of social media), the “perfect” wedding with the “perfect” dress, etc., etc., etc. As newlyweds we expect every day to be filled with romance and excitement and adventure and passion. As we live our lives and experience the reality of hardships and struggles, the “perfect” relationship continues to be thrown in our face by all our friends on Facebook who have better houses, better vacations, better kids, better cars, better, better, better.

We live our lives buying into this illusion of the “perfect” relationship, wondering what is wrong with us or with our spouse. We might even start playing the game ourselves, presenting our own relationship as some fairy tale story where every day is better than the last. Unfortunately reality will eventually overwhelm the illusion and that is when many people quit, get divorced, and start looking for someone else…their new true soulmate that actually completes them…this time…not like last time…it will be different…you’ll see.

19 years ago, on August 2, 1997, Kristine and I were married in Livonia, MI. Over the last 19 years I’ve learned a great deal about the “perfect” relationship and I’d like to share my insights. Let me start with a little transparency, at the risk of TMI, and shed some light on Kristine’s knight in shining armor.

  • I’m pretty disgusting. For example, I can go for a long run in 90 degree heat with 65% humidity and be perfectly content not showering for the rest of the day. I know some of you gagged when you read that.
  • I’m pretty sure I’ve got ADHD. At any given moment I’ll have 5 or 6 projects going that I’m “really, really excited about” and I’ll usually complete at least two of them. Kristine is constantly putting up with my “passion of the week”. I’m like a squirrel on crack.
  • I sure can be a big moody baby. I’ll be going along all happy go lucky and one thing won’t go my way and I can turn into a little spoiled brat.
  • I’m a bit of a control freak. And when I say “a bit” I mean I really, really, really like to be in control. You can all imagine how much fun that is to live with.

Now I could go on and on, but you get the picture. I could also list just as many of Kristine’s more “charming” characteristics that are such a joy to live with (sarcasm intended), but I’ve already told you I’ve been married 19 years so I’m not stupid enough to do that. In addition to listing some difficult personality traits, I could tell of fights and arguments and struggles and sin and selfishness and bitterness and all the other experiences that make up a marriage with any mileage behind it. But with all that being said, we still have the “perfect” relationship and let me define that for you.

Our relationship is perfect because no matter how bad the fight or how big the disagreement, I know that even if we have to walk away for a bit that we will come back together and work through it. It is perfect, not because every day is warm and fuzzy but because every day is filled with the little sacrifices that demonstrate love.

I see perfection when Kristine takes a deep sigh and cleans my crumbs off the counter even though she’s asked me a thousand times to clean up after myself. I notice perfection when she’s had a rough and chaotic day and I stop what I’m doing to do the dishes and sweep the floor because I know that those two things will bring a sense of order back to her life. The perfect relationship is when we laugh during the mundane routines of life and we turn a trip to the grocery store with no kids into a “romantic” date night.

Our relationship is perfect because we are learning to let go of ridiculous expectations and show each other grace. Our relationship is perfect because when I look back over 19 years I see failure and sorrow and disappointment and frustration, but most of all I see growth. Our relationship is perfect because Kristine loves God more than she loves me. Our relationship is perfect because I love God more than I love her. Our relationship is perfect because we are committed to Christ and to each other no matter what comes our way.

From the Beginning

And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female…” (Matthew 19:4)?

He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way” (Matthew 19:8).

God’s design for marriage goes back to the beginning of creation. Jesus, in His day, took those who were testing Him to Genesis to get God’s original intent for marriage. They wanted to debate what Moses said in his day, but Jesus directed them to the first marriage. The first marriage was of God’s design. God designed, organized and officiated the first wedding and marriage in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve.

We hear today that those who advocate same-sex marriage are “redefining” marriage, and that is very true. However, as a culture when couples are living together before marriage, then we have redefined marriage (Hebrews 13:4). When our culture accepts things like “no-fault divorce,” then we also have redefined marriage (Matthew 19:6-9). If we want to be true to God, men, then we will go back to the beginning to get God’s full definition of marriage.

And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” They *said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give her a certificate of divorce and send her away?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery” (Matthew 19:4-9).

Receiving Criticism

The ear that hears the rebukes of life will abide among the wise. He who disdains instruction despises his own soul, but he who heeds rebuke gets understanding. The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom, and before honor is humility (Proverbs 15:31-33).

Okay, husbands, today’s MDB is on receiving criticism from your wife in a healthy, godly way. Here a few tips:

Receiving Criticism – Some things to avoid

  1. Interrupting. Let her finish. What does that say when we keep cutting someone off? Yep, we are not really listening.
  2. Defensive posture. Don’t dig in your heels and prepare for battle. Sighs, rolling your eyes, sarcasm, arms crossed, etc. all demonstrate to her that you are not going to budge.
  3. Distractions. Stay on topic. Don’t try to nit-pick all the flaws in her presentation. Leave her grammar alone. Maybe she got a specific thing wrong, but her general point is valid.
  4. “Well, what about you?” Don’t use this as an opportunity to fight back and point out her “issues” and things she needs to change. She came to you about something that is genuinely bothering her; it is not fair to use that as a springboard to launch into her problems.

Receiving criticism – some things to Do

  1. Pray for God’s guidance. Pray to yourself, just between you and God. Ask God to help you listen with an open mind, open ears and a calm disposition. Or, pray with your wife before the discussion begins.
  2. Asking questions to clarify. You want to really understand where she is coming from, right? Well, don’t assume from the beginning that you know where she is heading with this discussion.
  3. Say, “Thank you, I needed to hear that.” If there is something that you are saying or doing that is hurting her, and she brings that to your attention, isn’t that a good thing?
  4. Make a commitment. Commit to work on the issue(s) she brought to your attention. Don’t just say it…follow through on it. Give her the assurance through the visible change in your behavior. That will show her you really love her and accept her. Through acting upon this healthy criticism you show that you deeply care about her feelings and this relationship.

Giving Healthy Criticism

Recently, I wrote on the kind of criticism that will destroy a marriage, but not all criticism is bad. Giving healthy criticism is a vital part of any relationship, most especially in marriage. If we think of healthy criticism as part of our growth and intimacy, we will embrace it.

He whose ear listens to the life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise (Proverbs 15:31).

Here are a few questions that would be helpful to consider:

Giving healthy criticism

  1. Have I prayed about this? Have I spoken with the Lord and asked for His wisdom (James 1:5)? If I am to talk to God about everything that concerns me (Phil. 4:6), shouldn’t that include how to approach my wife? Don’t be hasty with your words (Proverbs 29:20), take time to pray.
  2. Am I assuming the best about my wife’s character and motives? Read the Holy Spirit’s definition of love in 1 Corinthians 13. Are you forming a realistic picture of your wife as a person? Or are you forming the worst possible construction (maligning) on her motives?
  3. Am I being balanced? Remember and verbalize the great qualities your wife has. Even Jesus acknowledged the good traits about others when correcting them; consider how He addressed the churches in Revelation.
  4. Have I considered my timing? Proverbs 15:23 says, “a man has joy by the answer of his mouth, and a word spoken in due season, how good it is.” Trying to bring up some heavy topic late at night after a very stressful day when you both are exhausted probably isn’t the best time.
  5. Am I watchful about my tone, my approach and my body language? A soft answer turns away wrath (Proverbs 15:1). A gentle tongue can break a bone (Proverbs 25:23). A wrathful man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger allays contention (Proverbs 15:18; 29:22).
  6. Am I limiting my criticism? Healthy criticism is not “piling on” all your grievances in one fatal blow. Deal with one thing. “In the multitude of words sin in not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise” (Proverbs 10:19; 13:16; 15:2; 16:23; 29:11; Ecclesiastes 10:12-14).
  7. Am I considering my own weaknesses and shortcomings? Remember that you are a sinner saved by grace, and so is she (Titus 3:2-7). As Jesus said, take care of the beam in your eye before removing a speck in hers (Matthew 7:1-5).

The heart of the righteous studies how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours forth evil (Proverbs 15:28).

Have this attitude in yourselves

Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:1-8).

Have this attitude in yourselves…

Husbands, today, let us use Philippians 2 in our prayers to God.

Lord, teach me to maintain the same love with my wife as we grow in our love for you and for each other. May we be united in spirit, intent on one purpose.

Father, help me to do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit in my marriage. Please humble me, and guide me in regarding my wife as more important than me. As Christ looked out for my interests over His own, may I do the same for my wife.

God, I ask for you to cultivate within me the attitude which is in Jesus Christ. Jesus left His place in heaven for us and became a servant for us. Help me to not take pride in my position as “head of the home.” Destroy any feeling of superiority whatsoever in my heart. Develop His humility within me. As He emptied Himself, may I empty myself. Lead me to the same heart of obedience that Christ showed on the cross. May I have the same selfless and sacrificial love for my wife that Jesus has for me.


Bite and Devour

But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another (Galatians 5:15).

Paul’s warning almost 2000 years ago is still as relevant to us today. Heavy criticism of each other in relationships is destructive. It will consume us, one bite, one dig at a time.

Bite and Devour:
  • Criticism destroys intimacy and creates a toxic environment. If we are in a marriage where we are constantly jumping on every word and deed, the relationship will crumble. Your wife will not feel safe to come to you about her thoughts and concerns. It is truly a toxic environment. If you have not lived it, I am sure you have seen others live like that. Miserable. God did not design marriage for that. You want to create an emotionally safe place for your wife.
  • Criticism comes from an insecure heart. Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” but if I am full of insecurity, I can’t love as I should. It goes back to the old junior high school stuff; we are all trying to pick on the other guy to make ourselves feel better and look good. If you were comfortable in your own skin with Jesus, you would not criticize your wife as much.
  • Criticism comes from meditating on our wives’ faults. Paul wrote that we are to love our wives and not be “bitter” toward them (Colossians 3:19). Bitterness is a root that wraps around our hearts and chokes out any goodwill we may feel toward others. When we focus our thoughts on our wives’ shortcomings constantly, that affects how we see anything she does. Dwell on what is good about your wife. Thank God for her spiritual qualities. It might even help to write her positive attributes down so that you can visually see them.

More on this later.

An Indistinct Sound

For if the bugle produces an indistinct sound, who will prepare himself for battle? (1 Corinthians 14:8)

The apostle Paul, in his discussion regarding speaking in tongues, illustrated the importance of sending clear signals. To his point, if someone in those days was miraculously speaking in another language, but no one in the congregation knew what he was saying, then the speaker was merely talking into the air (vs. 9). You are not teaching or edifying when no one understands the message. Furthermore, if a bugler in an army made “an indistinct sound,” then the soldiers in the army would not know which action to take.

So, in the army, and in the church, if leaders and teachers make an indistinct sound, people cannot follow them. We need to send clear signals and distinct messages. The same is on the baseball field: the pitcher and catcher have signals that each knows and understands. The manager and the base coaches have signals that everyone on the team knows and understands.

Now, let’s apply this principle to marriage…do I send confusing and mixed messages to my wife?

Do I make an indistinct sound?
  1. Do I have one set of rules for me and another for my wife?
  2. Do I show support for my wife’s efforts and dreams one day, but on another day make it very difficult for her to believe I am supportive?
  3. Do I send mixed messages on whether I am fully devoted to her, and to her only?
  4. Do I make a consistent stand for God and for His ways, or does the situation at hand determine my ethics?

Something to think about today, men. If you are the head of the home, and your wife is to follow you just as she follows Christ, then are you sending her clear messages?

Give it some thought.