Confessions of a Recovering People-Pleaser

I hate conflict.

As in, I REALLY hate it and try to avoid it at all costs.

That’s not extreme at all, right?

Really, though, any lack of unity makes me uncomfortable. I can’t stand it—I just want to fix it or avoid it.

Maybe you can identify with this on some level. You might be aware of how people will likely respond to certain events, so you do all that is in your power to avoid dissent.

This way of thinking has motivated me regularly throughout my life. I was once told by a trusted friend that I was, “trying to be God for people”.

Ouch.

She was so right, though.

What she meant was this: I tend to try and keep everyone so happy that I go beyond my means—I try to become almost God-like in order to help someone or fix a problem.

This was never something that I was supposed to be able to do, yet I put that onto myself. You’re not supposed to bear that burden of pressure either.

Instead of living a life of self-dependence and unattainable achievement, Jesus says this:

 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

–Matthew 11:28-30

We can all identify with feeling weary and burdened throughout this life. We all desperately need rest, and we were even created to have rest! If God chose to rest on the 7th day of creation, you’d better believe that we all REALLY need to follow that example.

The imagery in the verses above are simple and peaceful, because guess what? We are not the ones doing the work! Jesus is. #PraiseHands

Looking back on the conversation with my friend, I am forever grateful for her boldness in calling me out. It probably wasn’t fun for her at the time (and certainly wasn’t fun for me, either), but it was so necessary for me to hear it.

The reason?

Trying to be God for people always leaves me, and them, empty.

I (and you) just can’t do it all, and that’s such a good thing!

I feel as though recently God has brought to mind the role of conflict and how it challenges my people-pleasing tendencies. For the longest time, I thought of conflict as a negative word, and I believed that anyone willing to delve into conflict was a complete weirdo.

Now, however? God is changing my mind.

Slowly, I am learning to see that conflict can be Biblical. Yep, that’s right—it’s in there!

One example is Colossians 3:13 “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone.”

What’s notable about this verse to me is that bearing with and forgiving are a response to a grievance. Yup, there’s a conflict, or grievance against someone, present. In the midst of conflict, there’s a picture of unity.

Other times in the Bible, we are told how specifically to address conflict:

“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.” –Matthew 18:15-16 (NIV)

It’s beautiful to me that the heart of conflict resolution is so straightforward. Instead of gossip, the first step is to speak to the other person directly. Only if they aren’t receptive are we told to involve others.

This is what conflict resolution should be! We all fail and unintentionally hurt or upset those around us, but we need to seek resolution when this happens. Even if it means a somewhat uncomfortable conversation, it is worth it to address what we see around us and to be willing to receive the potential critique of others. Ideally, only the two individuals need to be involved.

The heart of conflict shouldn’t be to stir up someone else or annoy them, of course. The intent is to be genuine as you encounter dissension and seek peace as an outcome.

It has been blowing my mind the last few months to realize that conflict can actually yield a positive outcome, rather than awkwardness. Sure, there will probably be initial awkwardness, but what about after both people have had a chance to think about the others’ needs and experiences? How often do we struggle to see things from another person’s perspective until it is communicated? If we are seeking the good of others, talking through a conflict can yield a positive outcome.

Addressing conflict is counterintuitive for me, so I flee from it. I would prefer to alter my expectations and adjust myself than someone else be uncomfortable.

Do you see the issue with this? Once again, I’m putting the needs of people first in a way that tends to cloud my perspective. Galatians 1:10 speaks directly to this:

“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 (NIV)

Honestly, I kind of used to avoid this verse or pretend it didn’t apply to my situations. Great strategy, right?

However, I NEED to keep this truth in mind. If pleasing people is my priority, I am not pleasing God.

Wow.

This certainly doesn’t mean we should intentionally try to annoy people rather than pleasing them, but it is an important means of checking our motives: are people becoming more influential to our decision-making than God?

My hope is that we (and definitely I) can realize the depths of this and how backwards it is. We need trusted friends to hold us accountable—even if it yields conflict.

Also, make me quote Galatians 1:10 to you sometime. I’ve been trying to memorize it.

Carmen


3 thoughts on “Confessions of a Recovering People-Pleaser

  1. Wow! You are singing my song, girl! You wrote all about me. I have become better as time has gone by, probably because I was a teacher and had to face the fact that I couldn’t fix my students or their parents. Thank you for your post!

  2. Carmen, I have struggled with this tendency for years! When I was growing up, I used to be bullied and/or teased relentlessly, and no one wanted to be a close friend of mine. Even now, when I have several close friends and many other friends, I still struggle with this because of my fear of rejection and conflict. However, your post and a sermon I heard from a guest speaker at church today really spoke to my heart! Thank you!

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