To All the People Pleasers

This is for the ones who understand the idea of “saying no” in theory, but not always in practice.

For the ones who can still remember insults and accidentally overheard jabs from years ago even when the compliments have faded.

For the ones who think of perfectly-phrased comebacks and condolences two days later—while still rehearsing over and over what they should have said.

For the ones who hide the generic soap and toilet paper and bring out the Bath and Body Works and Charmin’ UltraSoft when company comes over.

People pleasing 2

We are the people pleasers: the few, the proud (in all the wrong ways), the overcommitted and overachieving and fearful.

It’s not so bad, we think. We consider others and focus on setting an example and even if there is sometimes guilt or pride attached, we are out there loving and serving others. That matters. That is good.

But have you thought about this: what if you could no longer accomplish things for God?

Imagine you’d spent your whole life being involved in every ministry with a sign-up sheet, loving as many people as you could cram into your life, wearing enough hats that you sounded like the Holy Spirit: counselor, teacher, helper, comforter, giver-of-advice and planner-of-events and cleaner-of-spills.

And then, one day, everything changes. You’re surrounded by strangers in a strange city, alone in your apartment, determined to write letters until you stop feeling lonely…but you run out of stamps first. You can’t join a half dozen ministries, no one asks for your advice, hardly anyone knows your name, your sister is worried about you, your mom is worried about you, you are worried about you, because things seem to have fallen apart and you never saw it coming.

Who will you be then? How will you relate to God when you can no longer serve him?

Maybe you do what Martha did when Jesus informed her the kitchen was closed. What David did when he had to flee from all he had been promised. What Paul did when he was forced to blindly depend on others and question everything he thought he knew.

Maybe you ask, “Do I love God himself, or do I just love doing things for God?”

Yes. Maybe that’s what you do.

People pleasing

“Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” I keep coming back to this verse, both in 1 Corinthians 1 and Jeremiah 9. What’s interesting to me is that people in completely different contexts—prosperous-then-ruined exile-era Israelites and gifted-and-talented early-church Corinthians—needed the same basic warning from God: don’t put your identity in what you do, in your own wisdom or strength or wealth or accomplishments.

Those passages also tell us what we should focus on instead: “But let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness.” And “Because of him, you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and peace.”

Who God is. Who we are in Christ. That’s it. That’s all that matters. Nothing about circumstances, nothing about other people, nothing about a checklist or gold star chart or motivational book. Just who he is and what that means for us.

For the sake of being practical, here’s one idea of what this might look like.

We tend to think everyone is keeping a record of us, a blank piece of paper where they will tally scores, jot down witty quotes, and decide whether we are worth knowing and paying attention to and being friends with and loving. And we constantly think about what might be going on that paper, how our actions and words will be seen and interpreted. It consumes us.

That’s why I think a different kind of paper might be helpful. Call it “God Is” and tape it to your wall with a marker nearby. Think about it, add to it, read the Bible looking for answers to this fill-in-the-blank. It’ll answer a lot of other things too.


This is (hypothetically) what one might look like.

This is (hypothetically) what one might look like.

Know God. Love God himself, not just all of the other good things attached to him. Make your life about relationship with God, not service for God.

Because, in the end, it does not matter who we are and how others view us. Not even a little bit. It’s all about him.


  1. ‘Being’ rather than ‘doing’ is paramount because it is based on what God is doing in me, rather than what He is doing with me and much less, what I think He is trying to do through me. And who I really am is uniquely the result of what He is doing in me and can only be realized through my personal and intimate relationship with God. I really like your thoughts, Amy, and wish that more of us would see the importance of this and begin to rearrange the priorities in our Christian life. I believe the person and message of Jesus Christ would more credible to the world that we are neighbors to.

    1. “Personal and intimate relationship with God.” There it is, right there. Sometimes I think we want the kind of solution that can be achieved through effort and a self-help book, because relationships can sometimes be hard and scary, even (especially?) relationship with God.

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