When I Stopped Dancing

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When I Stopped Dancing

“You know the quote, “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you can’t fool all the people all of the time.” ~Abraham Lincoln

It’s also true of pleasing people.

You can please some people all the time. You may even be able to please all the people some of the time. But it is impossible to please everyone all the time. Impossible. 

But I tried. Oh how I tried.

I was born a people-pleaser. I can’t remember a time in life when I wasn’t anxious about keeping the important people in my life happy. Disapproval was all the discipline I needed. I “danced!” I used well-practiced steps to do my best to maintain approval. But dancing is exhausting and impossible. The most difficult times were when I was forced to make choices I knew would please some and displease others.

Parents, husband, children, bosses, friends, people at church, students, and yes, even God.

I danced to please . . . because I was terrified of rejection, loss of love, or abandonment.

Failure just taught me to dance better.

Although I grew up hearing, “God loves you,” I subconsciously interpreted life’s problems as His displeasure. Valleys and fear led to agitation and depression. I did my best to hide it from everyone except those closest to me, because my need for approval kept me smiling and dancing.

Even though I knew better, I believed:

Jesus + doing life “right” = God’s pleasure, favor, and blessings. 

I wonder, have you ever thought that too?

What did you do?

I tried harder . . . to do better and be better. I danced faster and faster.

Until it happened. My greatest fear. I was told I was unloved and two people I loved with all my heart walked out of my life.

And the dancing stopped. I stopped.

As the sobbing subsided, Jesus whispered:

“I will never leave you or forsake you.”

“I came to give you life—abundant life.”

“Come to me when you’re tired and burdened and I will give you rest.” 

“I am enough. Trust Me”

And I turned to see His face. The face of the One who loved me not because I danced, but because He chose to. He always has and He always will.

So I lost myself in His Word, and grabbed hold of the life line of His promises.

Promises like:

The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Romans 8:16

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean He no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. Roman 8:36–37

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. Romans 8:38

As I surrendered . . . my fears, my circumstances, my relationships, everything to Him. I began to heal. It didn’t happen quickly, I had years of dancing to lay down before the cross in repentance.

[Tweet “But Jesus is faithful, patient, loving, and true. He is enough.”]

In the years since, I continue to cling to His promises and rest in His Word. I still have some hard days. Days with loss, illness, pain, and problems.

But this I know.

Jesus is enough! He is always enough!

Are you a people pleaser? Do you ever try to keep God happy to earn His favor?

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  1. Yep! For too many years, I danced madly, only to watch my life spin more and more out of control. I am definitely a recovering people pleaser who is grateful to know that I don’t have to do anything for God to love me just as I am.
    Blessings, Deb!

    1. People pleasing is exhausting isn’t it, Martha. And the frustrating part is no matter how hard you try, it still is impossible. So thankful to finally rest in His love. Of course, like you, I’m in recovery and will have to stay aware when setbacks return. Blessings and hugs!

  2. Deb, I always find that “people-pleasing” mentality very interesting, only because I was never that way AT ALL. (Stick with me for a minute please.) I always marched to my own drum and looked out for Number One. For a lot of my life, I **THOUGHT** it served me well, especially when I would read things like what you wrote, or hear people-pleasers talk about the agonies they suffered trying to make everybody happy. My “every man for himself” mentality might work out for a while, as long as you don’t mess up too badly and life goes OK. But in my case, I went through a bad time and made some rather large mistakes late in life, and found that there was not a lot of forgiveness or friendship coming my way. I found how easily one could wind up on the OUTSIDE of their family circle, with no chips to call in. It’s tough to find yourself needing the kindness or favor of others when you never bothered to give any out. I have changed all my relationships, starting with the ones inside my own home and extending to my coworkers. I don’t want anyone to ever say again that I didn’t care for them, think of them, or do anything for them. I’m glad for you if you are no longer a slave to people-pleasing, but at the same time, know that you are probably reaping benefits you may not even realize! Blessings, Kim

  3. Kim, That is a really excellent point. I think the difference is fear. People pleasers are motivated by fear of rejection and loss. Reaching out through Gospel love and kindness is what we are called to do. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts here. It’s a really important part of the picture to remember. Blessings! to you!

  4. Loved this Deb. As a reformed people pleaser (I’m still in detox) I know how hard and dangerous it is to have this dance to perform. may we all come to the realization we have only an Audience of One.

    1. I am still in detox too Bill! 🙂 It’s hard to get over when that fear is so deeply rooted. But I’m with you on focusing on the only One I really want to please. I remember telling my children not to worry about making me happy, but to focus on honoring and pleasing the Lord because that would make me happy. Thanks and Blessings!

  5. I love this. I too was born a people pleaser. It is a hard habit to break. Thank you for sharing your soul with us.

    1. Thank you Renee for visiting and stopping to take the time to say hello. God’s blessings!

  6. I can so relate to this, people pleasing and always feeling I needed yo say yes I will do everything. Thank you for this great post. Blessings.

    1. Thank you for your kind encouragement Terri!

  7. Letting go of “people pleasing” was made easier once I began having some chronic illnesses in early adulthood. It was a mixed blessing. You find out that you can’t do everything by your own strength and energy.

  8. Oh Deb, such truth I love how you use the word “dancing” rather than “running around like a headless chicken”… so much more poetic! 😉 A great challenge for me to see WHY I am doing whatever I am doing, and for whom. Yikes. You are right— Jesus IS enough… thank you!

    1. Thank you Laura! Truthfully, I’m still a headless chicken sometimes. 😉

  9. I remember being a teenager and my Dad yelling at me one time. He was disappointed in me! Oh how I hate to do that, to hear those words. So glad that Jesus loves me always!

    1. Me too, Sarah! Those of us who hate to disappoint those we love have to stop, breath, and pray before making choices to get God’s direction and peace. Thanks so much!

  10. I think this is something we can perhaps all identify with. It’s so easy to think that God works the same way that we do. We project our own attitudes on to him. So if I’m pretty upset when people turn their back on me and hate me – we imagine that God would act the same way towards us.
    The only real solution is to just have such a faith in the word that we allow it to break through with the truth. To say, “I don’t understand how God could be like this because I’m not. But I know he’s like that – because his word says so.”

    1. Yep, I’ve had to turn to His promises often to remember that He loves me even when I fail. Those promises have gotten me through some very difficult times of rejection and loss. Thanks for sharing this great point, Loren.