Growing up I was very quiet and shy, I didn’t have a lot of friends, I was never popular and was talked about a lot by my peers. I’ve been a pastor’s kid all my life so I was always told as a child to watch what I do and say because people (church people) were always watching and I, along with my siblings, had to set a good example at all times. Due to all of these factors (and others), fear gripped me at a young age. The fear of being myself, fear of what others thought about me, the fear that whenever I walked by a group of people they were talking about me, fear of speaking in front of people (those I wasn’t close to or super comfortable with), fear that people didn’t really like me and had negative opinions of me — pretty much fear of man. As I grew older and eventually came to Christ, God took me through a long season where He showed me that I had a people pleasing spirit. He showed me just how strong it was and how it hindered so many areas of my life. I realized that I was so in bondage to what people thought about me that I wasn’t even free to fully be myself. It wasn’t the type of people pleasing where if someone told me to do something dumb or dangerous I would do it, it was the kind where I didn’t really want to step on anyone’s toes or do anything to cause people not to like me, including being myself. I didn’t want to make other people uncomfortable or displeased with me in any way. Inwardly I would constantly double check my actions and my words to make sure I didn’t accidentally offend anyone. I was constantly worried about what other people thought of me to the point it became second nature and I didn’t realize it was a problem until God showed it to me.
But once God revealed just how strong it was, I couldn’t move forward until I allowed Him to dig it up and remove it — and that He did. Day by day and situation by situation, He began to show me ways in which I was moving in a people pleasing spirit. Most of it was simply in my thoughts which hindered or caused certain actions or lack of actions. He would replay moments of my day where my reason for doing something was because I was worried of what someone thought or because I wanted to go out of my way to make sure I hadn’t offended someone. He would expose areas in my thought life where I was wondering if someone was dis/pleased with me or with something I did. This took place for MONTHS (if not over a year). It was intense. He began to show me the root to some of the patterns and expose the lie of the enemy. It was an intense season of shaking and uprooting; yet at the same time it was a season of refreshing because I was going to another level of freedom in God and freedom in being me. It caused me to see how little I really thought of myself and how important other’s opinions were to me. I knew this was something that God was doing in me because towards the end of that season, He had someone prophetically tell me that He was sending (and had sent) a fresh wind to remove the people pleasing spirit and that I would never be the same again. Let me tell you!!! There is nothing like knowing that God is doing something in you, then receiving a prophetic word to confirm and give you better understanding of what He is doing! Since then, He’s been taking me to greater levels of freedom, and He’s still doing it today.
Below I share a few things that I’ve learned about people pleasing. My prayer is that this exposes any areas in you where you may have people pleasing, and that it sets you on a course of greater freedom.
People pleasing is the fear of man.
People pleasing is pretty much the fear of man or the fear of man’s opinions. When you always consider what people think before doing anything or filter your actions through other’s opinions, you are a people pleaser and it is a form of bondage. At the time when God showed me that I had a people pleasing spirit, I was very bold and unashamed for Christ, but whenever He told me to step out into something new or do something, I would always be concerned of what people would think. I didn’t want people to think that I was being prideful or that I thought I was “all that.” I would wonder if people thought I wasn’t good enough or able to do the task or new thing He was telling me to do. So aside from being afraid to actually do what He told me to do, I was also weighted down from the fear of what others would think about it.
Proverbs 29:25 says, “The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD shall be safe.” A snare is a trap used to catch animals and once the animal is caught, it is difficult for it to escape. So this verse is letting us know that fearing man will only lead to a trap. If you fear (consider, put your trust in) man in all that you do instead of God, one way or the other it will lead you to a trap which will be difficult to get out of. If man’s opinions outweigh God’s word and the Holy Spirit’s leading in your life, you will not prosper. You will be led down a path of continuous bondage in all that you do. But if you put your trust in God (consider His ways, His word) above all, you will be safe.
So when that fear of man comes creeping up in your mind, cast it down and remember that it can never lead to anything good. The enemy may try to bombard you with the fear of what others think, what others have to say, or what others will do, but as you cast it down and exalt God’s truth, those thoughts will have no place in you.
People pleasing prevents you from doing what God has called you to do.
Years ago when God first showed me that I was about to go into ministry, the first thing that came to my mind was fear – fear of what others would think about it and me. “Will they think I’m good enough?” “Will they think I’m ready?” “I hope they won’t think I’m prideful.” “I hope I don’t mess up so people won’t look down on me because of it….”. My greatest hindrance (other than how I saw myself) was what others would think, I battled with this for months until I finally obeyed God and stepped into it. People pleasing will cripple you from ever obeying God or it will be such a hindrance that it will be a battle to obey. God had to deliver me from people’s opinions in order for me to fully walk in what He called me to walk in.
In our walk with God we will get many tests of choosing to obey God or obey man (or the fear of man). There are children who don’t obey God because they fear what their parents will think or do. There are ministers who won’t obey God in an area of ministry because they know others won’t support them or be for them. There are pastors leading whole churches who won’t obey God on certain matter concerning the church because they fear that the board or the congregation will oppose them. Imagine what is being held up simply because we fear man more than God. Your fear may be an actual fear or a perceived one, but if you want to live to please God and live out all that He has for you, you cannot worry about pleasing man. The Apostle Paul put it plain and straight forward in Galatians 1:10, “Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant. (NLT)” If you want to be Christ’s servants you have to put the fear of man’s opinions behind you. You can never truly be free to obey God while worrying about what others think. Like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, you have to be willing to obey God even to the death, no matter what anyone thinks about it. Some may not try to kill you physically, but they may try to kill you emotionally, verbally, or even through manipulation (aka witchcraft). If you are bound to people, you will bend. “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28)” It’s better to obey God than to fear man. God will defend you as you obey Him. Simply obey and He will take care of your naysayers and opposers.
We can’t wait for people to validate or approve of the things that God has us to do, the places He has us to go, the positions He has us in, and etc. If that were the case we would never really get anything done. Everyone simply isn’t going to be for you. Some people won’t like the fact that God put you in a certain position instead of them or “so and so.” Some people will simply be jealous of the things that God has you to do or the assignment(s) He has you to walk in – and this is even in the church and among believers. It’s just the truth of the matter; we live in a fallen world and in a corrupt flesh. Everyone who says they are a believer isn’t healed and whole in every area so their lack of being made whole in certain areas manifests in different ways. Don’t stop obeying God because of how they may feel about you. (Now I have to put a disclaimer here: this does not mean that you don’t seek Godly counsel or listen to and honor your parents or your spiritual leaders. Let every word be established by two or three witnesses. So, like my Pastor says, if you’re your only witness something is wrong. If you’re just doing whatever you want without ever heeding any wise counsel, then you’re in dangerous territory. Be wise and be Spirit led, but don’t be bound).
People pleasing affects your relationships.
People pleasing affects your relationships, including your relationship with yourself. It will cause you to not truly be yourself in your relationships or with those you seek approval from. You end up hindering your own growth and freedom and can even get to a place where you don’t speak up for yourself in your relationships (unfortunately for some, this leads to abuse). You end up being a “yes man.” You’re unable to set proper boundaries in your relationships and people eventually feel like they can walk all over you and take advantage of you. If this begins to take place even in the smallest, most seemingly harmless way, there is a problem. The wrong person can come along who pushes the limits and takes it to a dangerous level. This is why it’s so important to get our validation from God so we don’t feel like we need it from a person. Many people do not realize that their issue with setting and keeping healthy boundaries in their relationships is because they feel the need to be a people pleaser. If you let the need to please others overtake you, it can get to this point. Allow God to show you the root and let Him take it out.
People pleasing will have you desiring to be in relationships with people that God may not want you to be close to. That area in you that needs validation may cause you to want to be close to those you think are “cool” or “popular,” or even those that you deem are “highly anointed” or “powerful in God” just so you can get around them, so they can give you a sense of approval and you can feel good about yourself. It will drive you into or keep you in relationships that God never ordained, even among believers. There was a time earlier in my walk where I wanted to be close to those that seemed “highly anointed” and be accepted by them because in my mind I thought if they accepted me then it would mean that I was just as anointed or powerful. I didn’t realize the reason I wanted to be close to them until God showed me. There was a place in me that wanted to be validated and it played out with people pleasing (even in the most subtlest, subconscious, unintentional ways). Years later, after being matured, I look back and I see that those people I wanted to be close to would have been so dangerous for my walk at that time. Though they seemed powerful and mighty on the outside, there were things they did behind the scenes that would have poisoned my spirit as a babe in Christ. God was protecting me from my own desires that stemmed from my insecurities. Thank God that today, I understand that God ordains friendships and I no longer seek to be validated by anyone no matter their title or spiritual standing. And I could care less what others think of me, as long as I’m pleasing God that is all that matters. I understand that everyone is not going to like me or like my personality and that is ok. I understand that I won’t be close friends or even good acquaintances with everyone and visa versa and that’s ok too. The Bible tells us we owe man nothing but to love him, not to be super besties with every man (which is impossible by the way). So now I aim to love everyone out of a pure heart and leave the close friendships up to God, He knows who He wants to pair me up with and the proper time. So if you see that you desire to please certain people or get close to them because they may somehow validate you, ask God to remove it.
The true me did not come out in my relationships until I got over what people thought about me. I didn’t think they would like me for who I really was and that created fear, which caused me to hide myself from them. I could not walk in complete freedom in my relationships until I let God uproot this issue. I was missing out on and even hindering the awesome things that God wanted to do in me through the God ordained relationships He set up because I was afraid to be me. And I was missing out on fully being used in those relationships too. Don’t miss out on what God wants to do in you and through you in your relationships because of people pleasing. God may want to birth a holy boldness in you to use you as His mouthpiece, but if you’re still in bondage to people, He can’t even trust you with that level of responsibility. When I began to get free, my relationships got free as well and I began to blossom in God all the more. I felt free to be used by God, and however He wanted to use me. I became more comfortable in my own skin and was all the more a willing vessel ready to be used by Him.
I pray that as God broke the chains off of me that He would do the same for you. No matter how long you have dealt with this issue, you can be free. And as He frees you, a new you that you never even knew existed will begin to emerge. It’s time to break free!