I suspect most of us struggle at times with wanting affirmation from others—even to the extent of being a "people pleaser." I'm not sure, though, we always recognize our tendencies.
Here are some ways even Christ-followers sometimes give evidence of this problem. See if any describes you.
1. You quickly try to fix any perceived problem between you and others. I use the word "perceived" problem because many people pleasers read problems into any response from others that doesn't make sense. Sometimes people pleasers try to fix things that aren't really broken.
2. You compromise who you want to be in order to have others like you. You may not even recognize you're compromising at the time, but you later at least wonder if you did the right thing. This trait is most obvious when we compromise ourselves around particular people we especially want to please.
3. You give much attention to gaining approval, but little attention to the mission of the church. You're more concerned about keeping everyone happy than about reaching non-believers, making disciples and getting the gospel to the nations.
4. You say, "I'm sorry" a lot. In fact, you say it even when you're not sure you did anything wrong; you just want to cover your bases so you don't disappoint anyone.
5. You struggle with saying no to someone. This one is especially troublesome for me. It's easy for me to think, I need to say yes because this is a ministry opportunity, while my real reason for saying yes is a desire to please others.
6. You lose sleep when you even think someone's bothered with you. Sometimes, in fact, the other person isn't the least bit concerned (he doesn't even realize he did anything, if he did), but you lie awake at night over the wounded relationship.
7. You run from conflict, including necessary conflict. Conflict is a sign all is not right, and you don't deal well when something's amiss with someone.
8. You give and give and give and give—and claim you do it all as a servant of Christ. Some people do indeed give out of that motive, but people-pleasing believers only sugarcoat their desire for affirmation with this claim.
9. You tend to attract needy people around you. We're all needy, of course, but some of us find the neediest people gravitating toward us—and often never growing beyond us. That's because they know we're continually fixers who want to help everyone.
10. You never reach the point of believing you've fully pleased someone. You can't reach that point, actually, if you're a people pleaser. People-pleasing is idolatry, and idolatrous living always leaves us longing for more.
Using this list, are you a people pleaser?
Chuck Lawless is dean of doctoral studies and vice president of spiritual formation and ministry centers at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, where he also serves as professor of evangelism and missions. In addition, he is team leader for theological education strategists for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
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