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While it's great to help people feel good, it's less great when you're motivated to help others just to make them like you. People-pleasing is when a person makes choices based on what they believe will make them the most likeable. People-pleasing can be a side effect of codependency or a sign of "enabling," a term applied when one person empowers another person's toxic behaviors or patterns. People-pleasing can also be idolatrous when we desire the approval of others over the approval God's already given us.
People-pleasers are fixated on the approval they obtain when other people accept them, and that fixation acts like any other addiction. And addictions are very difficult to break—no matter what the addiction is. The need to people-please is often rooted in a misplaced understanding of personal value. The people-pleasing addiction says, "If you are accepted, THEN you are valuable; if you are NOT accepted, you are worthless."
The truth is, there's no way you can make every single person happy. It’s tiresome. It’s exhausting. And it's just plain impossible. I can tell you, as a former people-pleaser, it was draining to always seek approval from others. I always felt that people would only like me if I agreed with everything they said or gave them gifts.
I've now learned that I don’t need to seek value in myself through others, because my value is an inherent part of my personhood, given to me by God. And so is yours!
Yes, Jesus did please people, but He also made a lot of people angry. When He did please people, it was never for selfish reasons. Jesus was selfless in every way. Yes, He was loving, kind, and caring with others (Acts 10:38), BUT He was never afraid of calling out people when they did wrong (Matthew 23:15). Jesus told people the truth. He never held back what needed to be said even if it meant death (Mark 15:1-2; John 18:37), because His priority was glorifying and pleasing God (John 8:29)—not people. Being like Jesus will sometimes mean people won't like us. They may even hate us. This is why it's so important to foster our relationship with God as our ultimate value-giver and source of self-worth.
Recovering from the addiction of people-pleasing is tough, but it is possible. Like with any addiction recovery process, the first step is acknowledging there's a problem to begin with. The second step is to humble ourselves before God and ask for help and forgiveness. Philippians 4:6 says, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God."
When people-pleasing becomes an addiction, it has tipped over the fence into being sin. Instead of worshiping God, we've allowed our hearts to worship the approval of others. Whenever we worship something that isn't God, we have built ourselves a fake god, an idol, in place of the Creator of the Universe.
Unfortunately, for as long as we live on Earth, there will always be worldly things competing for our attention and focus. As we continue to examine those things, we can ask God for help in keeping us walking toward Him and in His ways instead of toward the unhealthy things this world might offer (Ephesians 5:18; Galatians 5:16, 25).
Any habit or addiction takes time to recover from and change. Once we've brought the sin of people-pleasing before God, asked Him for forgiveness and help to do better, we can begin pursuing new motivations and patterns. "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." (1 Corinthians 10:31) The main motivation for every Christian, in everything we do, should be to please and glorify God.
This can be a tricky thing to wrap our minds around though. We can't "earn favor" by glorifying God. So why are we glorifying Him? Because He already loves us as we are. "We love because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19). This is our new motivation for loving Him and loving others. Not to earn love, but because we're already so deeply loved that we want nothing more than to share it.
People-pleasing is sneaky, because sometimes we want to please someone since we want what they have...which is the sin of covetousness. But no approval of even the most desirable person can match what God has already given us (Jeremiah 31:3). And God's love is a love that is unconditional and can never be stolen (Romans 8:31-39).
In everything we do and focus on, it is important to remember that we only serve one God (Matthew 6:24). We cannot worship the approval of people and God at the same time—even if the people we're trying to impress are fellow Christians. It can be easy to justify people-pleasing when we're trying to look good at church or for our families and friends. But even that kind of service can become idolatrous when it contradicts the Bible and overshadows our commitment to God Himself (2 Timothy 4:3).
God is enough. Part of following God is dying to our selfish desires (Luke 9:23)—including the desire to receive validation from others (Galatians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:3-5).
You don’t have to seek approval from others. You don’t have to be what other people want you to be. God wants you to be who He created you to be, and God didn't make a mistake when He made YOU. In everything you do and everything you are, seek to glorify God. May you feel most loved, valued, and cared for when you seek to live in the decadent love of God.
A people-pleaser is a person who seeks personal validation and self-worth through the approval of others. People pleasing can become an addiction and is ultimately an unhealthy practice. Instead of seeking value through others, we ought to recognize our inherent value through Christ. Our actions need only glorify and please God—not other people (1 Corinthians 10:31). Focus on Jesus and listen to His voice alone (John 10:37). Finding our worth in other people’s opinions will leave us unsatisfied and bitterly disappointed. May you feel most loved, valued, and cared for when you seek to live in the decadent love of God.
Vivian loves learning, studying the Word of God, and helping others in their walk with Christ. She is dedicated to helping people learn more about Jesus and is ready to help in any way she can. Her favorite things to do are spending time with her family and friends, cooking, drawing, and spending time outside. When she is not writing, you can find her soaking up the sunshine or going on an adventure.