I found myself in a lawn chair at our fire pit on an early evening. The heaving of my chest slowly subsided as I began to calm down and finish up my spontaneous crying session. As I stared up at the slices of sunlight slashing through the dancing branches of the towering maple trees, I poured my heart out to the Lord. I just hoped no one else heard me. After all, the neighbors, who were simply trying to eat their supper in peace, didn’t need both dinner and a show.
I grabbed my phone logged on to Bible Gateway. I swiped my way to the passage look-up page and placed two words in the search bar: please people. Twenty-three verses appeared before my eyes. When I spied entry number twenty-two—Galatians 1:10—it was as if it were flashing in neon pink, its words penetrating straight to my soul. You see, giving in to the pressure of people pleasing had caused me such anxiety and sadness in my life—for decades. And it was what triggered my melt down that day. I knew something had to change.
The apostle Paul wrote a New Testament letter to the early church in Galatia, an area that is part of modern-day Turkey. A good chunk of Galatians deals with the pressure the early Christians there felt from a group known as the Judaizers. Members of this group were insisting that converts to Christianity still follow some practices in the Old Testament law, asserting that it was necessary to do so to be a true believer and obtain salvation. Paul corrected this notion, reminding everybody of the true gospel of Christ that offers us salvation by trusting him alone.
At the onset of Galatians, Paul tosses out an important question: “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).
Hold up! Pause the video! Wait—what?! People in Bible days struggled with people pleasing? I mean weren’t they all perfect, running around donning halos that would rival the most glorious Instagram filter and singing the latest worship songs they’d just downloaded from their Spiritual Spotify app?
Nope. They dealt with this interpersonal tension in their life just like we do. And we would do well to ponder Paul’s question today when we are trapped in a tug of war between following God and succumbing to pressure from people.
How about you? Have your people-pleasing tendencies landed you in a heap of heartache, at least a time or two? Are you tired of outwardly agreeing to something that inwardly you’re certain you shouldn’t? Does trying to keep everyone happy end up making you quite the opposite? And—if you’re completely honest—would you admit that sometimes you put people in the place of God?
If any of these question sparks even a slight yes in your heart, I invite you to join me on this pathway I am still learning to walk. I’m just a few steps up ahead, navigating my way but finding the hike less scary—and less difficult—as it becomes more and more familiar. Like a muscle that must be exercised but grows stronger over time, your ability to discern and decide what pleases God, rather than people, will sharpen as you move forward in your own walk with Jesus.
Together we can learn to walk closely—and confidently—with our loving Creator, despite the opinions and expectations of others.
Looking for more like this? Check out this article from Wendy Blight