I am a people-pleaser. Big time. Have been for as long as I can remember.
To be more specific, I am a type-A, over-achieving, people-pleaser. Part of the reason I am those things is because it really, really matters to me what you and everybody else thinks of me so I’ve spent much of my life in “Image Maintenance” mode. (I’ve already written about it here before but since dying to self is not a thing we do once for all I am once again yielding this area of my life to God.)
Among other things I want you to think that I am:
- a good Christian
- a good mother
- a good wife
- stylish and reasonably fit
- a hard worker
And I. Am. Exhausted.
When I was a teenager growing up in a small town, attending a small church and a small school I had a small group of people to please. The list included my parents and grandparents, teachers and coaches, and adults at my church. I could do that.
As a young adult, I went away to college, got married, worked different jobs and the circle of people I had to please and the image I thought I had to maintain grew larger and larger. There were more family members, more teachers, more adults to please. “I can do this,” thought my twenty-something self.
With each decade of my life the circle, and my own self-imposed image, has grown. I’ve had a boat-load of people pleasing and image maintenance to do.
But the people are not pleased. We’ll not all of them all of the time which was my original goal. (I forgot to mention that I am also a very goal-oriented person so in the spirit of full-disclosure now you know.) Anyway, some of the people are always pleased because they think I’M AWESOME. (very, very small group). Some are pleased some of the time. Some are NEVER, EVER, pleased. Go figure.
Until recently I believed that pleasing people was the good, Christian thing to do. You know, thinking of others more highly than you think of yourself equals pleasing people in my mind somehow. I know. That doesn’t even make sense and believe me I’ve spent
hours years trying to figure out why I am this way and blaming others for making me this way on my sad little detour to shameville.
Yep. That’s where all this try-hard-to-please-people-and-maintain-my-image got me.
The cold, hard truth: It’s a sin. Here’s why: My people pleasing life often trumps my God pleasing life. A focus on image maintenance and people pleasing breeds a self-consciousness that is an inverted form of pride and it has hindered Christ in me times without number. This sinful self-consciousness can never be soothed for a child of God and rather than repent I find myself hiding in the bushes grabbing the fig leaves of “do-better-try-harder” in an attempt to cover my shame.
But I am so, so thankful that the Lover of My Soul won’t let me stay there. In my distress and exhaustion I have cried out to God, “I can’t do this anymore”. Again. That’s when I hear him say, “I am pleased with you child of mine. I have loved you with an everlasting love. I am the Mighty Warrior who saved you and I take great delight in you. I rejoice over you with singing. (Zeph. 3:17)
And then He reminds me…again.
“Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies,”
I want to bear much fruit but I can only bear the fruit that is produced by the Holy Spirit. The fruit I bear is the Fruit of the Spirit in me. I want to be filled to overflowing with the Holy Spirit and bear the fruit that He produces. But I am too full of me—my people pleasing self-conscious life—to receive one drop of Him.
“Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains alone”
All I have to do is to present my empty, broken self and let Him fill me and keep me filled.
Andrew Murray says, “Just as water ever seeks and fills the lowest place, so the moment God finds you abased and empty, His glory and power flow in.”
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20
“The more we know of death with Him, the more we shall know of His life in us, and so the more of real peace and joy. His life, too, will overflow through us to lost souls in a real concern for their salvation, and to our fellow Christians in a deep desire for their blessing.” Hession
“Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” John 12:24
Not I, but Christ. The people pleasing part of me is dying. And I’ve never felt more alive.
If you missed the The Death of Me: Introduction read that here.