When you struggle with insecurity, it’s all too easy to end up becoming a people-pleaser as well. I have met very few folk who are completely free from the fear of man. I could count on one hand the people I have come across who really don’t care what others think, but my husband is one of them.
No matter who it is, he doesn’t mind. Of course, he values the love, friendship and companionship of those whom God has placed in his life. Yet he doesn’t care if his choices, beliefs or views upset, offend or aggravate others.
He shows respect to people in authority and doesn’t speak out of turn. Nonetheless, he will quite happily tell important figures what he thinks if they ask for his opinion. He just doesn’t mind what anyone thinks of him. In all the years I have known him, he never has.
That sounds great but it used to be a huge problem for me! I cared far too much what others – particularly important ministers – thought of me. Meanwhile, my husband didn’t mind what anyone thought.
The stress & strife of people pleasing
As a consequence, some of the most stressful times for us were at Christian conferences. I would be incredibly edgy, watching what I said and trying to cover up for what he said!
He would feel exhausted after two or three days of being with an irritable and controlling wife… Strangely, it was only when I was free from man-pleasing that I could see how anxious and bound I had been.
It wasn’t just preachers that I wanted to please. If I was with successful friends or relatives, I wouldn’t be much better. As nervous energy built up, my arms would go flying – knocking people’s drinks over as I told exaggerated stories.
Impressions were everything so I would go home after dinner parties worrying about what I’d said and how I’d said it. I’d be concerned that I’d talked too much or been too loud. I would wish I wasn’t quite so noisy and often purpose to be quieter in future. I longed to be the subtle, quiet type – even just for a night!
Am I doing alright?
Then there were the people who I looked to for approval. If I was leading a discussion at work or a group at church, I would always be conscious of what certain people thought.
Just as a thermometer registers the temperature in a room and the mercury rises or falls accordingly, I would unwittingly monitor the reactions and facial expressions of key individuals. I’d always check for their approval and consent.
The Bible has lots to say about man-pleasing, here is one of the most powerful verses:
“Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting the Lord means safety.” Proverbs 29:25 (New Living Translation)
Fear covers a very wide spectrum of emotions. This verse is saying that worrying about what people think, nervousness around certain individuals, wariness of some folk, concern about others’ reactions or opinions, apprehension, the jitters, dread or outright panic around people are all a dangerous trap.
When we are trapped, we are pinned down, hemmed in and constrained. It’s a horrible experience. We can’t relax and be ourselves for fear that we will project the wrong image, give a bad impression or upset someone important. When we’re trying to please people, we can’t live our lives in freedom. Let’s look this verse in the Amplified:
“The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever leans on, trusts in, and puts his confidence in the Lord is safe and set on high.”
The answer is to shift our focus. The next time you’re tempted to look to friends or family for reassurance, move your gaze straight to God. Popularity comes and goes but the affirming love of our Father lasts forever.
The more secure we are, the less people’s opinions will matter. The more our hearts are healed, the happier we will be with, or without, people’s approval. If you want a deep work within, get hold of our books and come to Healed for Life. It’s a journey of truth but the outcome is freedom, stability and security.