Week 2: How Do I Avoid the People Pleaser Trap?

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On Easter weekend, we did a survey and compiled your most asked questions. Those questions are the roadmap for this series called You Asked For It.

This weekend, we took a look at what the Bible had to say about The People Pleaser Trap.


A very common struggle and problem in life is people pleasing. Approval addiction.

If you don’t deal with this issue you will be miserable your entire life. It’s a common destroyer of happiness. You’ll be controlled by other people. People who aren’t even trying to control you.

Now the desire to win the approval of other people is not a bad thing. You need the approval of others in your life. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to please your parents, please your husband or wife or please your teachers, coaches and bosses. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be loved and liked. The Bible actually commands us to try to please other people in many ways. We are to serve one another so that we aren’t only focused on our own wants and needs.

But like all of God’s good gifts, legitimate needs can be misused. Just like your need for food can be misused, approval can be misused too.

“It is a dangerous trap to be concerned with what others think of you, but if you trust the Lord, you are safe.”  Proverbs 29:25 (TEV)

The Bible calls it a trap. So how do you escape this trap? Let’s first look at why it’s a trap and then we’ll find out how it traps you.


Why Trying to Please Everyone is a Trap

  • It causes me to miss God’s purpose for my life.

You can’t be worried about being who everyone else wants you to be and focus on who God created you to be at the same time. If you’re always trying to be who others want you to be, you will miss God’s purpose for your life. The two ways we miss God’s purpose for our life: Envy and people pleasing.

Our purpose is to please God, not people. He is the one who examines the motives of our hearts.”  1 Thessalonians 2:4 (NLT)

  • It keeps me from growing in my faith.

Trying to please everyone else stunts our ability to grow in Christ. When God is big in our lives, people’s opinions have less power. But when we allow people to be big in our lives, God’s power diminishes. We can fall into the trap of giving people what really belongs to God. When we give people authority or give people influence, then we give people what God deserves to have. 

How can you believe since you accept glory from one another but do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?”  John 5:44 (NIV)

  • It leads me to sin.

This could also say: We give in to peer pressureWhen we think of peer pressure we typically think of teenagers. Remember hearing this as a teen, “If everyone else jumped off a bridge, would you jump off a bridge too.” But the truth is, those of us who are older have the same struggle. The bridge may look a little different for us, but it’s the same struggle. It’s the desire to please others. A large percentage of the stuff we do that we shouldn’t do, is the result of giving in to the pressure of other people. 

“Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong!”  Exodus 23:2 (NIV)

It might be worth asking the questions:

  1. In what areas of my life am I caving in to the expectations of other people?
  2. In what areas of my life am I doing what I know is wrong to win the approval or to avoid the rejection of other people?
  3. Where am I jumping off the bridge of peer pressure?
  • It causes hypocrisy in our lives.

When we’re trying to gain the approval of others we start to wear masks. Few things are as exhausting as trying to figure out what masks you need to wear in front of which people.

“Then [Jesus] said to them, ‘You like to appear righteous in public, but God knows your hearts. What this world honors is detestable in the sight of God.'”  Luke 16:15 (NLT)

God wants us to be consistent not full of hypocrisy or wearing masks. The fear of disapproval can cause us to compromise things. Things that are important, like the truth. This is why we say things that are socially acceptable, rather than what is true. This is why we say things that are politically correct, rather than the truth. But integrity is more important than popularity. What if we were to pray, “God, help me make my integrity more important than popularity.”  That’s how we stop wearing masks and put off hypocrisy.

  • It silences my witness.

“Many people, including leaders, believed in Jesus. But they wouldn’t talk about it publicly out of their fear that the Pharisees would expel them from the synagogue. They loved human approval more than they loved the approval of God.”  John 12:42-43 (NIV)

Who around you would hear about Jesus if you weren’t afraid to share? 

 

Maybe as you read these five traps you’re thinking,  “You’ve nailed it!  This is me; I’m a people pleaser. How do I break free from these traps?” Here are 6 antidotes to approval addiction.


Antidotes to Approval Addiction

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Number one, consider that even God can’t please everyone.

Right now, there are people praying for different teams to win at a sport. Half of those people are going to be disappointed in the game. Right now, some people are praying for it to rain and some people are praying for it to be sunny. Half of those people are going to be disappointed. 

Even God can’t please everybody. Do you think you can please everybody? Only a fool would try to do what God can’t do. If everybody likes you, it means you stand for nothing. It means you have no conviction or beliefs. The moment you take a stand, somebody’s going to stand against you. 

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Second, realize that you don’t need anyone’s approval to be happy.

What other people think of you has no relationship to your happiness unless you choose to let them manipulate you. You can’t please everybody. God doesn’t expect you to please everybody. Disapproval doesn’t have to ruin your happiness. 

You might have spent all of your life trying to please an unpleasable person. They said, “You’re never going to amount to anything.” And you thought, “I am going to earn their approval.” You have tried and tried to win the approval of an unpleasable person, but the truth is, that’s a self-inflicted prison. You haven’t gotten their approval yet. If you haven’t gotten it by now, you’re never going to get it. It’s not your fault, they’re just unpleasable. 

“Your approval means nothing to me.”  John 5:41 (NLT)

When Jesus is number one in your life, He sets you free from approval addiction because you’re focused on pleasing Him. If you are looking to any human being to meet all your needs, you’re going to be severely disappointed because nobody can do that. Only God can meet all your needs. If you are looking to any human being to keep you happy, you’re going to be unhappy most of your life because people are going to disappoint you. So you better find your happiness in God.

“Even if my father and mother abandon me, the Lord will hold me close.”  Psalm 27:10 (NLT)

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Next, realize that what seems so important now is only temporary.

The reason you became a people pleaser is because you put more emphasis on the here and now than on eternity. What seems so important now is only temporary. The things that you think are really important right now, later they’re not going to matter as much. Think about the five most important things to you in high school. Five years later, how much did any of that matter to you? None of it mattered five years later. It’s the same today, what seems important now is only temporary.

“For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not from the Father but from the world. The world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God remains forever.  1 John 2:16-17 (NIV)

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Then, understand that you only have to please one person.

You only have to please one person and that’s your Creator. You only have to please the One who made you and has a purpose for your life. Learn to live for an audience of one. You only need one person’s approval – God’s. That simplifies life enormously.

“I seek not to please myself but Him who sent me.”  John 5:30 (NIV)

You may have never realized this but people pleasing is a form of idolatry. The first two of the Ten Commandments are: Don’t have any gods before me and don’t make any idols. Anything you put before God becomes a god, an idol. When you are a people pleaser, you allow someone else to take first place in your life. They become an idol, because their opinion matters more to you than God’s opinion.

“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”  Galatians 1:10 (NLT)

If you don’t tell people you’re a Christian because they might think less of you or if you don’t let them know you go to church because they may not like you, then their opinion matters more than God’s opinion. At that point, you have another god, an idol in your life. Remember you only have to please one person.

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Realize that one day you will give an account of your life.

“Yes, each of us will have to give a personal account to God.”  Romans 14:12 (NLT)

When you take that long-term look and realize you’re going to give an account one day for every word you say and everything you do, it gives you the ability to stand up to peer pressure. In that peer pressure moment, remember what Jesus Christ did for you on the cross. 

He didn’t deny you. He didn’t back down. He died for your sins and we owe Him our lives. He created you. He saved you. He forgave you. He’s taking you to heaven. Remember that one day you’re going to give an account to God. God’s going to ask, “What did you say in that conversation at work? What did you say to your friend at school?” Integrity is more important than popularity. 

“If anyone is ashamed of Me and My words, I, the Son of man will be ashamed of him when I come in My glory and in the glory of the Father and the holy angels.”  Luke 9:26

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Finally, discover that God created you to become like Christ.

From the very beginning, God decided that those who came to Him should become like Christ. When you get to heaven God isn’t going to say, “Why weren’t you more like your brother? Why weren’t you more like your mother?” Because God made you to become like Christ. God is not going to ask, “Were you popular?” God’s not going to ask, “Did you make everybody happy?” He won’t ask, “Did you become what others wanted you to be? He’s going to ask, “Did you become like Christ?” 

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.”  Romans 8:28-29 (NIV)

God’s primary purpose for mankind is for them to become like Christ. God’s purpose for your life is good. God didn’t put you on earth to fulfill the purpose of somebody else. God put you on earth to fulfill the His plan for you.

If someone in your life is urging you to do something that would make you more Christ-like, that’s a good thing. You should do that thing. Not to appease them, but because they care about your primary purpose. Don’t wait until you feel like it. Move toward Christ.

There’s only one person in the universe who knows you completely, who accepts you unconditionally, and who knows the purpose you were created for.


Check Back

Review what you talked about last week.

Do you have any more questions or conclusions after reflecting on last week’s message on anxiety and depression?

How are you doing with saying out loud your thanks to God for your life?

Application

Read John 5:16-47

Have you ever felt the trap of people pleasing?

Describe a time in your life when peer pressure or people pleasing ever led you to sin or hypocrisy.

Which antidote to approval addiction do you need to remember the most right now?

Is there anyone’s approval you’ve been trying to earn? Do you need to simply accept that if you don’t have their approval by now, you never will?

What is an action step you can take as a result of this message?

Tell Someone Else

Who do you need to share this message with this week?

Is there anyone in your life who is desperate for your approval? How could you encourage them and show them how much you love them? How could you point them to Christ?

 

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