Are you a people pleaser? I am the queen of people pleasers. Sometimes I don’t even share my opinion so I can go with the flow of those I’m with. But being a people pleaser is exhausting – and not God’s plan for me. In fact, Galatians 1:10 says,
“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? … If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
I have long loved this verse because it helps me reset and seek Christ’s approval alone. Even as I renew my mind daily with this truth, I still struggle to live it out.
Imagine, then, this true scene from my life. A close friend calls me to say we need to downgrade our friendship because her husband hates me. What? Hates me?! I inwardly panic.
“What have I done?” I ask. “How can I fix it?” My desire to please others kicks into overdrive. After talking and tears, I learn my friend had told her husband she felt left out when I was spending more time with another friend. After she processed and got over her hurt feelings, she didn’t tell her husband. His lingering anger toward me was one of many topics of contentious arguments between them.
That day on the phone, we resolved the misunderstanding, and I asked for forgiveness. Unfortunately, there was no opportunity to make things better with her husband, since he was unwilling to talk to me.
Soon after our conversation, their relationship spiraled downward and sadly ended in divorce. I grieved with her, feeling heavy – as though I had contributed to their divorce. As I walked through that season with her, I felt exhausted and asked the Lord to lift my burden of blame.
About a year later, another close friend asked me to have lunch with her before my second child’s due date approached.
“Yes! I would love that!” I said.
I arrived with my eighteen-month-old daughter and my big pregnant belly, excited to be sharing a fun lunch with my friend, only to find out she had a list of grievances about me she wanted to get off her chest before I had a newborn.
Although not the best time in my life for conflict, I still wanted to know how I could be a better friend to her, so I listened to her constructive criticism. We discussed issues and apologized. But she saved the “best” problem for last: her husband hated me.
He hates me, too?! I instantly thought of last year’s struggle. I desperately sought to understand how this man, whom I had known in college but rarely saw now, could feel this way. My friend mentioned an argument they had had where my name had come up, and in his anger, he had even punched a hole in a wall! What?! I sought to understand how two friends’ husbands hated me. What am I doing wrong? I thought.
Just as before, there was nothing I could do to fix the problem because he would not talk to me. It seemed unfair to be given this unkind message of hatred, again with no purpose of actually healing a rift.
Over the next weeks, I carried this burden, giving it to the Lord many times. But being the object of two men’s hatred would find its way back into my thoughts. Why can’t I stop caring if they hated me or not? Lord, help me stop obsessing and not be so concerned with pleasing others! I never even see these men.
A few months after the birth of my second daughter, we moved overseas. Although I hoped the distance would help put these conflicts behind me, I would still think about them even after settling into a new culture and routine. I don’t have time or emotional energy for these thoughts, I told myself. I have my husband, my family and many friends who love me, so why do I still dwell on these people I have no relationship with? This is stupid. Lord, help me put it behind me.
Living overseas and serving cross-culturally, I had other situations in my life I found difficult, but the Lord had given me peace about those problems. I saved my occasional fretting only for the vague hostilities of two men I would likely never see again.
As time went on, those worries came to mind less, but they were still little monsters hiding in the dark corners of my mind. One day during personal Bible study, a verse jumped out at me:
“And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again” (Mark 8:31).
Jesus was also rejected by men! My Lord and Savior Himself had been hated, one who had never sinned. I had never before connected this truth to myself. Should I compare my suffering to His? Mine is so trivial!
Then I pondered Jesus’s deep love for me and His understanding of how I am wired. He identifies with me in how it feels to be hated – one of my worst fears.
Lord, maybe you allowed those men to hate me so I can find all my worth in You! I prayed. Help me only dwell on the things that matter to You. I trust Your goodness in times of trouble – especially when I am rejected by others. Thank you I can give up my desire to please others and rest in being your beloved and chosen daughter.
Sometimes those little monster thoughts come back to jeer at me. But I remind myself even Jesus knows what it feels like to be hated and ask Him to help me keep my focus on pleasing Him alone.