As a little girl, I believe my mom clearly saw one of my biggest character flaws. Often times, friends would come home with me after school to play. Their parents would come to pick them up, their sudden disappearance leaving toys scattered all over the place. I would complain that I didn’t want to clean up the clutter on my own, and my mom would tell me that the next time they came over, I should demand that they help me clean things up before they go. I resisted, insisting that it wasn’t fair for them, secretly knowing they would dislike me for making such a request. But my mom gave me authorization, which I sometimes wish were still acceptable to use at my current age, “Tell them your Mami told you to have them help you.” Genius! I would no longer be the bad guy, she gave me permission to make her the target of their unhappiness.
As an adult, I have too have realized that people pleasing is my weakness. I also realized, though, that it has served as a strength at times, in showing hospitality or empathy towards others. I think I started valuing the positive side of the people-pleasing coin to the point that I forgot what types of compromises I can make in the name of the comfort of others.
Until this last week. After seeking some counsel in a situation I thought I may have dealt with poorly, a friend pointed out that I was “sensitive” and “cared a lot about what other people thought,” implying that I probably cared too much (a fair, and probably accurate assessment). People pleaser, rang in my ears.
At another point, I contemplated a decision I had to make for next year and realized that my motive wasn’t faithfulness to God (because faithfulness in this instances would not require me to take the particular action I was contemplating), but rather worrying about what a person at my local church may think. When that realization struck me, again I heard people pleaser ringing in my ears. I stopped and prayed for forgiveness. When I stop and examine my motives for many of the things that I do, I cringe at realizing how many of them are motivated at least in part by a desire to preserve my image and keep those around me happy.
For the last half of this semester, I’ve been reading through John in my devotions. One morning last week, I came to John 12:42-43:
Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.
I began to tear up. There, in the Word of God, I saw myself. One who believes in Jesus, but often doesn’t behave (or misbehave) in the way that I should because I love the glory that comes from man more than that comes from God. The conviction came to a sharper point as I contemplated my current circumstances: as it is finals time (why I only blog during finals, I don’t know), I have began to worry about what my professors will think about my performance in their class more than I worry about God’s perception of my work.
This realization of course reminds of David Asscherick’s message from GYC 2006 in Balitmore, “Because of Those Who Sat.” But I guess what’s striking me more now, is not that I’m always failing to do what’s right because people are watching, but that I find myself doing what’s right because people are watching rather than the fact that God is watching.
I come before the throne of grace as a penitent people pleaser. My only prayer is that I may be able to speak as Jesus did when His family, disappointed in Him for not sticking close by, finally found Him after His first visit to Jerusalem. He talked about His Father. “And He said to them, ‘Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?'” Luke 2:49. He was acting out of fidelity to His Father, and cared only about what He thought.
Maybe my Mami was on to something after all…