Many of us expend way too much energy trying to please other people. Now don’t get me wrong; the Bible clearly instructs us to serve others and even to put others ahead of ourselves. That type of unselfish living is fundamental to living a biblical life. In Christian circles, we like to throw around the acronym JOY to indicate that joy comes when one lives for Jesus first, then Others, then Yourself.
When we talk about the futile pattern of living one’s life in an effort to please others, however, we are referencing something entirely different. People-pleasers – those who are constantly trying to please others – often lead a life full of frustration and pain. In some cases, it can even lead one to compromise his or her Christian values. For example, feeling pressure from a boss or a colleague, a worker may misrepresent financial records or even assist in embezzling funds in an effort to make them happy. Parents may raise their children in a way that they don’t feel comfortable just so that they can please an overbearing grandparent. Concerning the preaching of the Gospel, the Apostle Paul wrote, “If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10). The same applies to many other areas of life as well.
An important fact to keep in mind is that you simply cannot please everyone. It is an impossible task. Not even Jesus was able to please everyone and He was perfect! Designer Dita Von Teese said, “You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there is still going to be somebody who hates peaches.”
This, of course, does not mean that we are to just write people off and give no consideration to their thoughts or feelings. We are to be kind, helpful, and loving toward others. It is one thing, however, to do it willingly and out of a sense of service and love, and quite another thing to do it because you are seeking someone else’s approval.
According to an old fable, a father and son were walking along a road one day with their donkey. Soon they met a man who told them how foolish they were to walk when they had a donkey that could be ridden. So the father and son hopped on.
They hadn’t gone very far when another man criticized them for both riding on the donkey. They were too heavy for it, he contended, and were being inhumane. So the boy got off.
It wasn’t long before a third traveler accused the father of being inconsiderate because he made the son walk while he rode. So the two switched places. Soon they met another person who said that the son was not being thoughtful of his father, who was so much older than he. When last seen, the two were trudging down the road, foolishly carrying the donkey.
If we are overly sensitive to others’ opinions, we may end up carrying a needless weight of guilt and frustration. Although we all appreciate the approval of others, our ultimate accountability is not to them, but to the Lord.