Confessions of a People Pleaser

Thursday, August 21, 2014

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to make people happy. That desire in itself is not a bad thing. However, when we try to meet someone’s unrealistic expectations and demands we are setting ourselves up for trouble. Creating happiness is actually out of our control. We can be pleasant and kind, loving and sweet but we don’t truly have the power to change the attitude of someone’s heart. Only God can do that.

Let me start at the beginning. I am the youngest of four children. The last of the litter, as I like to say. In addition, the age difference between my next sibling and me is 6 years. Then, there is a 9 year gap and then 11. So, as a child, I was still in kindergarten when my siblings were teens. Being the “baby” had its perks but it also came with some drawbacks. In my case, I was the child who was expected to make everything OK when there were disagreements in our home, a weight I have learned, that should never be placed on a child. When an older sibling acted out, as most children sometimes do, I was the one to bring peace to the family even though I was very little. I didn’t choose the role, but instead, it was something that I slipped into without even realizing it. I seemed to be able to make my parents (or my siblings) smile when they were angry or laugh when they were sad. And, as a child, I certainly didn’t like it when anyone I loved was angry or sad.
So, I automatically went into “people pleasing” mode when conflicts occurred. I’m sure in many families there is someone who has a similar role. For me, though, this desire to make people happy in my family, spilled over into the other parts of my life. As I grew, I avoided conflict like the plague. As a result, I said “yes” more times than “no” and got myself into situations that I shouldn’t have, all just to try to make others happy to the detriment of my own emotional well-being.

This is something that I’ve struggled with for much of my life. As I matured, however, this people pleasing attitude mainly showed its face with certain personalities. I had a level head with most people. But still, there were those, usually domineering or controlling individuals, who knew how to push my buttons and get me to drop everything simply to serve them. It didn’t matter if I wanted my husband to be first, or my family to be first…or even better, for God to be first. I was expected to drop everything to make them happy. If I didn’t, I was burdened with inner conflict and guilt. But, this is not what God wants for us. Jesus has removed our guilt and taken our burdens to the cross. He wants us to live freely and joyfully for Him!

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, 
and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1

As I prayed desperately for strength and for the ability to set healthy boundaries, I have finally learned the secret. When I was truly honest with myself, listened to God and organized my priorities correctly, putting God above all else, my struggle with people-pleasing began to lesson. God put things in an order on purpose. He knew that setting a clear order of priorities for us would make our lives simpler, less stressful and healthier emotionally. By looking to the scriptures, we can see a clear list of priorities to help us as we seek to honor Christ with our lives. There are many publications on this topic, but below I’ve typed a quick list of the order God wishes us to maintain our priorities as adults:

God 
“Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” Deuteronomy 6:5

Spouse (if married)
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Ephesians 5:25

“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” Ephesians 5:22


Our Children
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

Our Parents
“Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” Deuteronomy 5:16

Extended Family
“But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” 1 Timothy 5:8

Fellow Believers
"Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor." Romans 12;10

The Rest of the World
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 28:19

Finally, I am learning! I love to express my joy in the Lord and to generally be a cheerful person. God has created me that way. But now, I am making decisions based on what I know to be right, not just because someone else wants me to do something. I am looking to God and His word first. His instructions and order promise such freedom. Gone are my misplaced feelings of guilt and I am rejoicing in my new-found freedom in Christ.

In His grip,






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7 comments

  1. I hear you. People pleasing is so easy to fall into but difficult to get out of.

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  2. Absolutely! Fortunately, when we look to God first, our direction is made clear. Blessings, Joan

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  3. I was the oldest of two, but definitely the people pleaser. I saw myself in each line especially as you talked about dropping everything to make others happy . . . sometimes at the expense of our family. One challenge for me has been when I realized this about myself and began drawing boundaries, I was rejected by some I loved dearly. In that, I've had to trust God and know that pleasing Him must be my heart's desire and the rest will be as He wills. Great post!!

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  4. Another thing we have in common, Deb! I know that making this change in my life has been quite a process. But, like you, drawing boundaries can have repercussions. But, when we do God's will and trust Him, we can rest assured that we are pleasing Him first.


    Blessings, Joan

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  5. A wise man, your hubby! When we seek to please God first, we won't go wrong!


    Blessings, Joan

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  6. Excellent post, Joan! I can relate to your people-pleasing comments. And so many people have that priority list mixed up! I've been guilty of that too! Have a blessed week!

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  7. I'm amazed that it has taken me this long to finally figure this out! LOL But, I am so thankful to God for His encouragement and direction as I get my priorities in the right order!! Blessings to you, June! Have a wonderful Saturday!

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