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People Pleasing

A thorough examination of yourself may help you to know if you are a people pleaser, or what one doctor refers to as a person with “helper’s disease”.  If you are a Christian you may think pleasing people is a good thing since a basic tenet of Christianity is the notion of self-denial and self-sacrifice.  And doesn't the apostle Paul counsel us to “look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others”?  So what is wrong with being a people pleaser?  What signs should you expect to be manifest in doing a self examination?

People pleasers are especially known to hate saying ‘no’. The thought of letting someone down is disparaging to them. However, when you fail to set boundaries, which is typical of people pleasers, there are ripple effects. The time that you should have allotted to take care of personal needs, for example, to exercise, or prepare and enjoy a healthy meal, may be spent at the office to do one more project that extends hours after your shift has ended.  This inability to assert yourself, and put yourself first in this instance would likely lead to burnout, health challenges, possibly resentment and difficulties with work relationships, and would impact relationships at home.  Since you have decided to neglect your own needs because of an inability to let someone else know that you are unwilling to fulfill their request, you may want to ask yourself why another person’s opinion of you, or plan for you is greater than your own.  If you always tend to perform well during your normal work hours, are you suddenly now thinking yourself to be lacking loyalty or effectiveness?  Is acceptance on the job more important than life itself?

In 1 Corinthian 9:20-22, the apostle Paul says, “Unto the Jews, I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews, to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law;  to them that are without the law as without the law . . . that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak”.  It is important to note, however, that in his labor, Paul “did not sacrifice one jot of principle” (6BC 1088 12).  Paul valued souls.  His model for how he conducted life and ministry was Christ. Therefore, he was not showing weakness of character for he did not allow himself “to be led away by the sophistry and maxims of men” (6BC 1088 12).  He would not have been the abled apostle of Jesus Christ if his primary focus was not to do all things to the glory of God.

There is a good way, therefore, to sacrifice self. The motive for action is crucial.  “Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:3). Love should be at the core of every good deed.  It was love that propelled Jesus to leave a holy, heavenly abode to come to this sin-cursed world to sacrifice over 30 years of His life, become the Servant of all servants, and ultimately give His life for the sin of the world.

Jesus always did what pleased the Father, therefore, his life and motives for action, and His works should be a good example for all.  If you know yourself to be a people pleaser, consider also Julian Melgosa’s suggestions in the book, Positive Mind: 

  1. Do not rush to say ‘Yes.’ If in doubt, simply say: Give me extra time to think about it. Then take your time to reflect and do not commit yourself until you are certain.

  2. Explain your position.  Whenever you are not sure to accept a proposition, explain your situation and the current challenges.  In this way, you will underline your own difficulties and your opponent will remain well informed.

  3. Offer alternatives.  If you have difficulties accepting the other’s request, suggest different options . . . . 

  4. Do not argue.  If in your inner self you wish to say ‘No,’ avoid argumentation, including logical reasons, as to why you are not accepting.  Simply be firm after having explained your position.

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