Following Jesus has been such an adventure. He has continued to transform me in spite of myself. I’ve previously written about how He is teaching me not to be afraid of failure (see: Righteous Risks).
There’s something else the Lord is removing from my life: my people-pleasing tendencies.
People-pleasing is a soul killer. It erodes your courage, dampens your enthusiasm, and causes you to live a tepid, half-speed kind of life.
How do I know the people-pleasing attitude is not from God? Let’s look at a passage from the Gospel of Luke.
Even the tax collectors (the lowest of the low) were responding to Jesus’ message, but the “Pharisees and experts in religious law” just wouldn’t go along. They rejected John the Baptist’s message, and they criticized Jesus for spending time with sinful people. Here’s Jesus’ response:
“To what can I compare the people of this generation?” Jesus asked. “How can I describe them? They are like children playing a game in the public square. They complain to their friends,
‘We played wedding songs
and you didn’t dance,
so we played funeral songs,
and you didn’t weep.’
For John the Baptist didn’t spend his time eating bread or drinking wine, and you say, ‘He’s possessed by a demon.’ The Son of Man, on the other hand, feasts and drinks, and you say, ‘He’s a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners!’ But wisdom is shown to be right by the lives of those who follow it.”
I’ll explain the historical context here. Children tend to imitate what they see—this is true of both modern and ancient times. The children of Jesus’ day commonly saw weddings and funerals, so they would “play wedding” and “play funeral” (I wonder if they fought over who got to be the corpse).
Jesus compared his critics to children who refused to come out and play—no matter what the game was.
Here’s the point: Jesus could not make everyone happy. Jesus didn’t try to make everyone happy. I cannot really live like Jesus and be a people pleaser.
I should instead just be concerned with pleasing God. Unlike people, God is perfectly clear and consistent in what He expects. One plus God equals a majority—the Old Testament prophets are proof of this.
There is one final issue: I am not Jesus, so I can get it wrong. How can I be open to constructive criticism without falling into the people-pleasing death trap?
The solution for me has been pretty simple. There are a chosen few whose opinion matters greatly to me. They are like Nathan to me, or sometimes like Simon. I may not always agree with their advice, but I’m always a better man when I listen. I do listen to others with an open mind, but only this small group has earned my complete respect.
Don’t be a people pleaser. Live your life for an audience of One.
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