I’m a recovering people-pleaser.
I say “recovering” because like any intense inner need … there is always a danger of relapse.
On the surface, people-pleasing looks like a good thing. Almost Biblical.
Didn’t Jesus say, doing for others was like doing for Him?
The King will answer, “I tell you the truth, anything you did for even the least of my people here, you also did for me.”Matthew 25:40 (NCV)
But I believe we need to stop for a minute and look more closely, because…
There is a huge difference and a big problem for those of us who are people-pleasers and that’s motivation. You see…
Doing for others the way Jesus intended is based on love.
Doing for others for the people pleaser is based on fear.
“Typically, the intense need to please and care for others is deeply rooted in either a fear of rejection and/or fear of failure.”Dr. Sherry Pagoto, for Psychology Today
When I first read that, I thought, “Yep! That pretty much describes me.”
In fact, I found it helpful to understand my people-pleasing problem like I’m analyzing an equation that goes like this…
The more I love someone plus the more difficult it is to make them happy multiplied by my fear of rejection
Big Love + Lack of approval x Fear of rejection = whatever it takes people-pleasing.
And I could juggle it all well, at least I thought I could, as long as there were no conflicting requests, needs, or ____________.
But when two or more people I loved had conflicting requests or needs, when their wants pulled me in different directions, when I couldn’t make everyone happy and I had to choose . . . my anxiety levels soared and I’d freeze.
The problem is … I almost always chose to please the person I believed would leave me at the expense of the person whose love felt safe and sure.
I believe that’s pretty normal.
People pleasers work hardest on the relationships they feel are the most fragile even if it means disappointing the people who love
It’s one of the reasons why little children act out more in front of their mothers and why teens go along with peer pressure. They know it will upset mom and dad but they count on their unconditional love.
But remember … I wrote at the beginning that I’m in recovery.
Want to know how I got there?
I was rejected. Huge painful rejections!
People I loved big and had desperately tried to please for years … walked out of my life!
And by God’s grace, it was my wake-up call.
It was time to address the root of my people-pleasing problem.
I went to a Christian counselor.
And I went to God … grabbing His truth like a life-line and holding on to promises like:
Where God’s love is, there is no fear, because God’s perfect love drives out fear.1 John 4:18 (NCV)
The Lord is for me, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me? It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in people.Psalm 118:6,8
And through God’s Word, I realized I had been wanting people to fill a void that only God could fill with His perfect unconditional unchanging love.
Praise God, by God’s grace, I am blessed with a few people who have loved me unconditionally. People who have shown me, consistent love, countless
So, if you find yourself struggling to be free of the fear that results in the need to please people and you’re ready to join me in recovery, here are…
10 Steps to Recovery for the People Pleaser
1. Remember – You are valued and loved by God.
Say it often. Make it the constant message of your voice…
May you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is.Ephesians 3:18
The Life Application Notes say it this way…
God’s love is total. It reaches every corner of our experiences. It is wide—it covers the breadth of our own experience, and it reaches out to the whole world. God’s love is long—it continues the length of our lives. It is high—it rises to the heights of our celebration and elation. His love is deep—it reaches to the depths of discouragement, despair, and even death … you can never be lost to God’s love.
2. Remember – No matter how hard you try you can’t please everyone.
It is not our job to please people; it’s our job to love them … and sometimes love has to say “no.”
“You can please some of the people all of the time; all of the people some of the time and some of the people NONE of the time, and these are the people you PRAY for ALL of the time.”Margareat McBride
3. Pray – Ask God to give you godly wisdom in your relationships.
God knows and loves all the people in your life. If you need help understanding them … ask Him to guide you, give you wisdom, and go with you as you interact with them.
If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.James 1:5
4. Remember – “No” is an acceptable answer and doesn’t require an explanation.
This one is hard for the people pleaser but it is so important. Ask God to show you when you should say “no” and to give you His strength to follow through.
Be prepared with a simple … “Thank you for asking, but I’m not able to do that at this time.”
Learn to say ‘no‘ to the good so you can say ‘yes’ to the best.John Maxwell
5. Know what’s important to you so you can say yes to the best.
Make a list based on your God-given gifts and abilities … on your priorities and values, not out of fear. Then give yourself the freedom to set goals, plan your schedule with prayer, and move forward in faith and freedom.
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.Romans 12:2
6. Reject fear with God’s help.
I believe God’s wants us to live in the freedom that only His true love given to us in and through Christ Jesus has given us. Freedom that helps us love others with His guidance, strength, and help.
I prayed to the Lord, and He answered me.Psalm 34:4
He freed me from all my fears.
7. Reject guilt with God’s complete forgiveness.
Let go of the past … you can’t change it! Ask for forgiveness where you need it and forgive those who have hurt you. Trust God to help you move ahead in faith with hope and help.
Never forget the three resources you always have available to you: love, prayer, and forgiveness.H. Jackson Brown Jr.
8. Pray and ask God for courage, strength, and guidance.
Old habits die hard. It’s why I call it being in “recovery.”
It’s especially hard when people have perfected the skill of manipulating you to get you to please them. But God is in the business of changing lives and with His help … you can have the strength you need to live for His glory, not for people-pleasing.
I pray that from His glorious, unlimited resources He will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit.Ephesians 3:16
9. Live each day for God’s glory. He loves you best!
Surrender your life to the One who sacrificed everything to show you and me how very much He loves us. the One who promises to never leave you nor forsake you. Jesus – the One who will never reject you.
Not to us, O Lord, not to us,Psalm 115:1
but to Your name goes all the glory
for Your unfailing love and faithfulness.
10. Like all recovery . . . get up and do it again tomorrow.
I still don’t do this perfectly. I am definitely a work in progress who is abundantly grateful for God’s patience, love, and faithfulness. We can trust Him to give us what we need to live for Him … free of fear and the need to please people.
“Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections, but instantly set about remedying them – every day begin the task anew.”St. Francis DeSales
We can love well. We can recover from the fear that manipulates and controls us.
And … we can love people well … with the love of Christ Jesus. We have His Spirit to help us!
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