Leading Rather than Following People

yes_maamContinued from here.

God does not call us to pander to people to try to get them to like and accept us. Instead, He calls us lead others to God and be examples of godly living. Jesus’ life was an example of how we should live, and he never pandered to anyone. Instead, he lived a life that glorified God. Paul said,

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” ~ 1 Cor. 11:1

This should be our goal as well. We should do as Jesus did in seeking God’s approval rather than people’s. As we do this, we become an example to others. As they follow our example, they transform into Christ’s image, leading more godly lives and bringing more glory to God.

You cannot lead and follow people at the same time. If you follow God, you will lead other people to follow God as well. If you follow the World through people pleasing, you will lead people away from God because you cannot glorify God when your priority is pleasing people.

Only God sees people clearly. When we treat others as God tells us to treat them, He is invited to move in their lives. However, when we shift our focus to people pleasing, we live our lives through distorted lenses. People seeking anything other than God are focused on the cravings of their sinful nature. They want others to do things that make them feel comfortable – their priorities are focused on themselves, not on God. That’s why people pleasing does not work: As the sinful nature shifts what it wants in the moment, the actions that the person defines as “acceptable” also shift. Only God can meet someone’s needs, and what satisfies is quite different than what our sinful nature craves.

If you really want to please people in a positive way, lead them to Christ! He is the only one with the power to satisfy their needs, and he does it in a very different way than they expect. As you find fulfillment and acceptance in your relationship with God, you become a model of what truly satisfies. You can then lead others to the source of true satisfaction.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace dressed in fatigues, standing in a tank, and saluting to the words, “Yes, Ma’am.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

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People Pleasing for Acceptance

okayContinued from here.

The reason I was such a big people pleaser was that I deeply needed to feel like I belonged – like there was a place for me. Considering my life experiences, which included years of severe child abuse, losing my father to unexpected death as a teenager, being infertile, and parenting a special needs child, I don’t exactly “fit in” with most social groups. I’m different from most people, and being different made me feel excluded. I thought that people pleasing would lead me to feeling accepted and loved … that it would “buy” me a place at the table.

What I have grown to realize – and this was tough for me to accept about myself – is that people pleasing is manipulative. Rather than be myself, I changed my behavior to manipulate other people into liking and accepting me. I thought I was such a martyr for “being nice” to people, but my “niceness” came with a price – I expected acceptance in return. When that did not happen, I felt shame and anger.

Today, I truly do not give a hoot if people accept me or not. Of course, I prefer to be liked, but I’m OK if I am not. This is because I no longer value people’s opinions – I only value God’s. Because I know God fully accepts me exactly as I am, whether or not a person accepts me is irrelevant. If people do, that’s icing on the cake, but I still have the cake even when they don’t.

God loves me with an everlasting love. There is nothing I can ever do to lose that love. No matter what I lose, I will never lose God’s love. He always accepts me and is always with me, so I always have a place at His table. Even if nobody on the face of the earth loves, accepts, or approves of me, I always have God’s love, acceptance, and approval (through Jesus). Thus, my needs are always met, regardless of whether or not the people in my life accept me. Ironically, now that I do not care whether people accept me or not, I’m accepted—and even respected!—in most circles.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace bending her head down, looking sad, and saying, “Okay.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Jesus was Not a “People Pleaser”

if_you_say_soContinued from here.

Considering the goal of every Christian should be transforming into Christ’s image, we should look to Jesus as our role model. Jesus did not give a hoot about pleasing people. Instead of trying to please the Pharisees, he blatantly disregarded their manmade rules to please God instead.

As an example, according to manmade rules, Jesus had no business going to Samaria. He had no business talking to a Samaritan woman, which even surprised his disciples! He certainly had no business drinking out of the same bucket as a Samaritan women, which was the only way for her to share a drink with him since he had nothing to draw water from the well with. And imagine the level of displeasure that people had with Jesus when he chose to spend the night in Samaria!

And yet, through Jesus breaking all of those manmade rules, not only did the Samaritan woman receive life, but also many other Samaritans from the town. Jesus did not give a hoot about keeping up appearances and following manmade rules. He only cared about God’s opinion, and God loved the Samaritans, regardless of what His own people thought about this. Jesus prioritized God’s opinion over man’s opinion, and numerous people from the “wrong side of the tracks” entered into a relationship with God.

This is how we need to live our lives by following Jesus’ example. People’s priorities are selfish by nature. They want to be with the “in crowd,” which, by definition, means they exclude other people from their group. As one person worded it to me, “I want to be part of a group that removes the riffraff. I just hope I’m not the riffraff.”

God loves the riffraff, and Jesus died an excruciating death to reconcile the riffraff to God. So we, as Christians, have no business excluding anyone from our groups. God calls us to value others above ourselves, and that mean all others, including the riffraff and Samaritans in our society.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace shrugging under the words, “If you say so…” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

The Folly of “People Pleasing”

shameI used to be the world’s biggest doormat. Seriously! I was the world’s biggest people pleaser. It mattered to me sooo much that everyone like me, and I felt shame if someone didn’t.

I wound up feeling shame a lot. I tried to please people by wearing the right clothes. Inevitably, the outfit I spent a lot of money on went out of style. SHAME! A friend would ask my opinion and not like my answer. SHAME! I would do something to please one person, but that action displeased another person. SHAME! I would do something I didn’t want to do specifically to please someone, but by the time I did it, the person changed her mind, so I wound up displeasing her anyhow. SHAME!

Nowhere in the Bible are we told to please people. In fact, we are told just the opposite:

You adulteresses [disloyal sinners—flirting with the world and breaking your vow to God]! Do you not know that being the world’s friend [that is, loving the things of the world] is being God’s enemy? So whoever chooses to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. ~ James 4:4

It’s not our job to try to please people. Our focus should always be on pleasing God:

Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:

“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.”

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. ~ James 4:5-7

God’s ways are higher than man’s ways. In other words, they are different. Thus, we have a choice to make: Will we live our lives seeking to please people? Or seeking to please God? We cannot do both.

Ironically, since I stopped trying to please people and have only sought to please God, I have found favor with most people I interact with. The ones who take issue with me tend to be those who are self-absorbed and angry because I refuse to bend to their will. However, because pleasing God, by nature, involves humbling myself and valuing others above myself, I generally find much more favor with people without trying.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace frowning over the word, “Shame.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Remember Whose You Are

u_get_meContinued from here.

The second perspective-shifting message I received during my bizarre spiritual experience was that I need to remember WHOSE I am. I belong to God. Thus, my behavior needs to be directed by God, not by my body, emotions, troubles, or anything else.

Vicktor Frankl, who was imprisoned in Dachau concentration camp, shared these wise words:

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Vicktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

This is the same thing that Paul tells us about our ability to choose our thoughts:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” ~ Phil. 4:8

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” ~ 2 Cor. 10:5

While it is completely human and understandable for me to become fixated on my physical or emotional discomfort, that’s not living the righteous life that God wants for us. God has equipped us with the power to choose, so when I choose to allow my body or emotions to drive my thoughts, it’s a choice. I am choosing a bad attitude. And, let’s face it, whenever we are in discomfort or pain, our natural setting is going to be choosing a bad attitude.

If Vicktor Frankl could choose a positive attitude in a concentration camp, then I can choose a positive attitude while dealing with hives. If Paul and Silas could choose a good attitude after being severely flogged and imprisoned, then I can choose to focus on God rather than my problems, no matter how severe they are. I’m not going to do this, though, unless I remember whose I am.

I am not my own: I am God’s. I was bought at a price, and I need to behave like someone who belongs to God, even when I don’t feel like it.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace with her hands over her heart, saying, “U get me.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Remember Who You Are

who_meAs I shared in this blog entry, I have been in extreme physical discomfort for weeks from systemic hives triggered by exposure to poison oak. Oh, joy!

My doctor gave me a high dose of Prednisone to help my body settle down, and I struggled with emotional side effects from the prescription. By the end of the nine-day Prednisone treatment, I’m not sure I was entirely “sane.” I was extremely emotional and felt “crazed” by weeks of endless itching compounded by feelings of hostility in reaction to the medication. Let’s just say I wasn’t much fun to live with.

My physical and emotional health came to a breaking point one night. I sobbed before God and had a bizarre spiritual experience that I still have not fully processed, and I don’t really have words for what happened. The best way I can word it is that God showed up.

When God showed up, my perspective shifted, and I have been trying to process that perspective shift ever since. Two powerful messages that hit me during this bizarre experience were remember who you are and remember WHOSE you are. I had become so fixated on my physical discomfort that I had lost touch with the bigger picture of my life.

As for remembering who I am, I am a spiritual being having a physical experience. I was created for eternity, but my physical discomfort had distracted me from that focus. I was unable to see past my physical and emotional state of being, which was keeping me focused on myself – the fast track to misery. When we can remember that we are eternal beings and that whatever we are dealing with right now is temporary, we awaken to who we are. I believe this is what Paul had in mind when he said,

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” ~ 2 Cor. 4:17

When my focus is on the temporal, then everything I deal with – from minor annoyances to long-term struggles, becomes the center of my universe. However, when I focus on the eternal, I maintain perspective – that life is about so much more than whatever is vexing me, and this … whatever “this” is … will end. I don’t have to be consumed by whatever troubles I am dealing with because they are temporary, while I am eternal.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace pointing to herself and asking, “Who Me?” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Change in Perspective: Seeing Life as a Whole

Continued from here.

One final thought on a change in perspective… God used (of all things) a secular movie to teach me an important spiritual lesson. The movie Arrival is a science fiction story that asks a profound philosophical question: If you could see your entire life now and knew that your journey would bring lots of joy ending in pain, would you still choose it?

I absolutely would make the same choice is Louise Banks, the heroine of the story. I thought about how I would not change anything about my past, even the child abuse, because I know how it all turns out – with God healing my pain and using my past for good as I encourage others who are still in pain themselves.

I then thought about how the Bible provides us with the same gift that Louise received – the gift of knowing how it all turns out, although it’s the opposite of her story. Louise had to decide whether the joy was worth the painful ending while I must decide whether the daily challenges and struggles are worth the joy that God has promised in the end. The Bible promises us that God works all things together for good for those who love Him, which means that “good” is coming from the “bad” I am facing now. Might I, like Louise, be empowered to embrace the journey, both good and bad, if I really believe that God will work all for good?

Might this perspective be the secret to Jesus’ obedience? We are told in Hebrews that…

For the joy set before [Jesus] he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. ~ Heb. 12:2

There was nothing “joyful” about being mocked, beaten, and crucified, but Jesus knew that God would work even this out for good, so he embraced the journey. Might I also embrace the journey if I believe … really believe … that God will use even this [whatever I am struggling with or suffering from] for good?

So much to ponder. I don’t claim to have all of the answers yet, but I am enjoying the journey of asking the questions.

[Graphic: Cover of Arrival. Courtesy Amazon.]