Are you a people-pleaser?

Earle D. Treptow

People-pleasers, as we commonly use the term, are individuals who do whatever is asked of them to ensure the happiness of others. Though they probably belted out the word no with gusto as two-year-olds, they find it exceedingly difficult to use that word with their bosses, their friends, and some members of their family. Even when they lack the time or the ability to do what is asked, they can’t say no.

Why can’t people-pleasers say no? Perhaps some worry that others will perceive them as selfish or self-absorbed. Others can’t say no because, by their way of thinking, dealing with the stress of another item on their lengthy to-do list is easier than dealing with the feelings of guilt sure to wash over them later. Perhaps, whether they realize it or not, they’re actually hoping to get something from others. They want to feel loved and needed; they’re seeking validation.

There’s a far better place for us to find validation. Through faith in Jesus, we are clothed in Christ’s righteousness. God declares that he is well pleased with us, because Jesus accepted our guilt and endured our punishment. Gone, in Christ, therefore, is the pressure of having to perform to get God to be pleased with us. Secure in the Lord’s unwavering love, we need not live by the approval of others. We don’t have to be people-pleasers. How freeing!

At the same time, however, God wants us to please the people he has placed in our lives. St. Paul writes, “Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: ‘The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me’ ” (Romans 15:2,3). Rather than saying, “I don’t really care about my neighbors since God rejoices over me,” the child of God says, “I want to serve the people in my life. Since the Lord committed himself to me in Baptism, promising to bless me and care for me throughout life, I am free to commit myself to others.”

The apostle Paul points us to our Savior as both model and motive. Jesus, the delight of his Father, never used his power to guarantee a life of ease. Instead, he tirelessly loved and blessed those whom most people despised—the tax collectors, the prostitutes, the sinners—and found himself despised as a result. The leaders of the Jews were none too pleased with him. Yet, for them too, Jesus willingly sacrificed himself. He was pleased to do what was in the best interest even of those who didn’t appreciate him at all.

Because Jesus was a people-pleaser, that is, because he did what was good for sinners, including us, we are free to be people-pleasers too—not so that we can get something from them, but because we want to give something to them. We can be people-pleasers, eager to do what will be in their best interests. We can say yes to putting the needs of others before our own, to bless them because God has so richly blessed us. We can serve even those who don’t appropriately appreciate our efforts, because the Lord has served us first.

With that kind of people-pleasing, God is most pleased!

Contributing editor Earle Treptow, a professor at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wisconsin, is a member at Calvary, Thiensville, Wisconsin.



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Author: Earle D. Treptow
Volume 103, Number 8
Issue: August 2016

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