Week 2: How Do I Avoid the People Pleaser Trap?

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On Easter weekend, we did a survey and compiled your most asked questions. Those questions are the roadmap for this series called You Asked For It.

This weekend, we took a look at what the Bible had to say about The People Pleaser Trap.


A very common struggle and problem in life is people pleasing. Approval addiction.

If you don’t deal with this issue you will be miserable your entire life. It’s a common destroyer of happiness. You’ll be controlled by other people. People who aren’t even trying to control you.

Now the desire to win the approval of other people is not a bad thing. You need the approval of others in your life. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to please your parents, please your husband or wife or please your teachers, coaches and bosses. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be loved and liked. The Bible actually commands us to try to please other people in many ways. We are to serve one another so that we aren’t only focused on our own wants and needs.

But like all of God’s good gifts, legitimate needs can be misused. Just like your need for food can be misused, approval can be misused too.

“It is a dangerous trap to be concerned with what others think of you, but if you trust the Lord, you are safe.”  Proverbs 29:25 (TEV)

The Bible calls it a trap. So how do you escape this trap? Let’s first look at why it’s a trap and then we’ll find out how it traps you.


Why Trying to Please Everyone is a Trap

  • It causes me to miss God’s purpose for my life.

You can’t be worried about being who everyone else wants you to be and focus on who God created you to be at the same time. If you’re always trying to be who others want you to be, you will miss God’s purpose for your life. The two ways we miss God’s purpose for our life: Envy and people pleasing.

Our purpose is to please God, not people. He is the one who examines the motives of our hearts.”  1 Thessalonians 2:4 (NLT)

  • It keeps me from growing in my faith.

Trying to please everyone else stunts our ability to grow in Christ. When God is big in our lives, people’s opinions have less power. But when we allow people to be big in our lives, God’s power diminishes. We can fall into the trap of giving people what really belongs to God. When we give people authority or give people influence, then we give people what God deserves to have. 

How can you believe since you accept glory from one another but do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?”  John 5:44 (NIV)

  • It leads me to sin.

This could also say: We give in to peer pressureWhen we think of peer pressure we typically think of teenagers. Remember hearing this as a teen, “If everyone else jumped off a bridge, would you jump off a bridge too.” But the truth is, those of us who are older have the same struggle. The bridge may look a little different for us, but it’s the same struggle. It’s the desire to please others. A large percentage of the stuff we do that we shouldn’t do, is the result of giving in to the pressure of other people. 

“Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong!”  Exodus 23:2 (NIV)

It might be worth asking the questions:

  1. In what areas of my life am I caving in to the expectations of other people?
  2. In what areas of my life am I doing what I know is wrong to win the approval or to avoid the rejection of other people?
  3. Where am I jumping off the bridge of peer pressure?
  • It causes hypocrisy in our lives.

When we’re trying to gain the approval of others we start to wear masks. Few things are as exhausting as trying to figure out what masks you need to wear in front of which people.

“Then [Jesus] said to them, ‘You like to appear righteous in public, but God knows your hearts. What this world honors is detestable in the sight of God.'”  Luke 16:15 (NLT)

God wants us to be consistent not full of hypocrisy or wearing masks. The fear of disapproval can cause us to compromise things. Things that are important, like the truth. This is why we say things that are socially acceptable, rather than what is true. This is why we say things that are politically correct, rather than the truth. But integrity is more important than popularity. What if we were to pray, “God, help me make my integrity more important than popularity.”  That’s how we stop wearing masks and put off hypocrisy.

  • It silences my witness.

“Many people, including leaders, believed in Jesus. But they wouldn’t talk about it publicly out of their fear that the Pharisees would expel them from the synagogue. They loved human approval more than they loved the approval of God.”  John 12:42-43 (NIV)

Who around you would hear about Jesus if you weren’t afraid to share? 

 

Maybe as you read these five traps you’re thinking,  “You’ve nailed it!  This is me; I’m a people pleaser. How do I break free from these traps?” Here are 6 antidotes to approval addiction.


Antidotes to Approval Addiction

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Number one, consider that even God can’t please everyone.

Right now, there are people praying for different teams to win at a sport. Half of those people are going to be disappointed in the game. Right now, some people are praying for it to rain and some people are praying for it to be sunny. Half of those people are going to be disappointed. 

Even God can’t please everybody. Do you think you can please everybody? Only a fool would try to do what God can’t do. If everybody likes you, it means you stand for nothing. It means you have no conviction or beliefs. The moment you take a stand, somebody’s going to stand against you. 

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Second, realize that you don’t need anyone’s approval to be happy.

What other people think of you has no relationship to your happiness unless you choose to let them manipulate you. You can’t please everybody. God doesn’t expect you to please everybody. Disapproval doesn’t have to ruin your happiness. 

You might have spent all of your life trying to please an unpleasable person. They said, “You’re never going to amount to anything.” And you thought, “I am going to earn their approval.” You have tried and tried to win the approval of an unpleasable person, but the truth is, that’s a self-inflicted prison. You haven’t gotten their approval yet. If you haven’t gotten it by now, you’re never going to get it. It’s not your fault, they’re just unpleasable. 

“Your approval means nothing to me.”  John 5:41 (NLT)

When Jesus is number one in your life, He sets you free from approval addiction because you’re focused on pleasing Him. If you are looking to any human being to meet all your needs, you’re going to be severely disappointed because nobody can do that. Only God can meet all your needs. If you are looking to any human being to keep you happy, you’re going to be unhappy most of your life because people are going to disappoint you. So you better find your happiness in God.

“Even if my father and mother abandon me, the Lord will hold me close.”  Psalm 27:10 (NLT)

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Next, realize that what seems so important now is only temporary.

The reason you became a people pleaser is because you put more emphasis on the here and now than on eternity. What seems so important now is only temporary. The things that you think are really important right now, later they’re not going to matter as much. Think about the five most important things to you in high school. Five years later, how much did any of that matter to you? None of it mattered five years later. It’s the same today, what seems important now is only temporary.

“For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not from the Father but from the world. The world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God remains forever.  1 John 2:16-17 (NIV)

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Then, understand that you only have to please one person.

You only have to please one person and that’s your Creator. You only have to please the One who made you and has a purpose for your life. Learn to live for an audience of one. You only need one person’s approval – God’s. That simplifies life enormously.

“I seek not to please myself but Him who sent me.”  John 5:30 (NIV)

You may have never realized this but people pleasing is a form of idolatry. The first two of the Ten Commandments are: Don’t have any gods before me and don’t make any idols. Anything you put before God becomes a god, an idol. When you are a people pleaser, you allow someone else to take first place in your life. They become an idol, because their opinion matters more to you than God’s opinion.

“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”  Galatians 1:10 (NLT)

If you don’t tell people you’re a Christian because they might think less of you or if you don’t let them know you go to church because they may not like you, then their opinion matters more than God’s opinion. At that point, you have another god, an idol in your life. Remember you only have to please one person.

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Realize that one day you will give an account of your life.

“Yes, each of us will have to give a personal account to God.”  Romans 14:12 (NLT)

When you take that long-term look and realize you’re going to give an account one day for every word you say and everything you do, it gives you the ability to stand up to peer pressure. In that peer pressure moment, remember what Jesus Christ did for you on the cross. 

He didn’t deny you. He didn’t back down. He died for your sins and we owe Him our lives. He created you. He saved you. He forgave you. He’s taking you to heaven. Remember that one day you’re going to give an account to God. God’s going to ask, “What did you say in that conversation at work? What did you say to your friend at school?” Integrity is more important than popularity. 

“If anyone is ashamed of Me and My words, I, the Son of man will be ashamed of him when I come in My glory and in the glory of the Father and the holy angels.”  Luke 9:26

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Finally, discover that God created you to become like Christ.

From the very beginning, God decided that those who came to Him should become like Christ. When you get to heaven God isn’t going to say, “Why weren’t you more like your brother? Why weren’t you more like your mother?” Because God made you to become like Christ. God is not going to ask, “Were you popular?” God’s not going to ask, “Did you make everybody happy?” He won’t ask, “Did you become what others wanted you to be? He’s going to ask, “Did you become like Christ?” 

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.”  Romans 8:28-29 (NIV)

God’s primary purpose for mankind is for them to become like Christ. God’s purpose for your life is good. God didn’t put you on earth to fulfill the purpose of somebody else. God put you on earth to fulfill the His plan for you.

If someone in your life is urging you to do something that would make you more Christ-like, that’s a good thing. You should do that thing. Not to appease them, but because they care about your primary purpose. Don’t wait until you feel like it. Move toward Christ.

There’s only one person in the universe who knows you completely, who accepts you unconditionally, and who knows the purpose you were created for.


Check Back

Review what you talked about last week.

Do you have any more questions or conclusions after reflecting on last week’s message on anxiety and depression?

How are you doing with saying out loud your thanks to God for your life?

Application

Read John 5:16-47

Have you ever felt the trap of people pleasing?

Describe a time in your life when peer pressure or people pleasing ever led you to sin or hypocrisy.

Which antidote to approval addiction do you need to remember the most right now?

Is there anyone’s approval you’ve been trying to earn? Do you need to simply accept that if you don’t have their approval by now, you never will?

What is an action step you can take as a result of this message?

Tell Someone Else

Who do you need to share this message with this week?

Is there anyone in your life who is desperate for your approval? How could you encourage them and show them how much you love them? How could you point them to Christ?

 

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Week 1: How Do I Handle Anxiety & Depression?

On Easter weekend, we did a survey and compiled your most asked questions. Those questions are the roadmap for this series called You Asked For It.

This weekend, we took a look at what the Bible had to say about Anxiety & Depression.


There are hard things in life. And they can make us anxious. So anxious, we become depressed.

Different emotions produce different sensations. For instance, anger produces a burning sensation. Guilt produces a sick or nausea sensation. Anxiety is best described as tightness. Constriction.

 “Many are the afflictions of the righteous but the LORD delivers him out of them all.” Psalm 34:19 (NKJV) 

The word afflictions in the Hebrew is the same word the Assyrians used for torture. The kind of torture where they stand you up on a post, tie you to it and pile rock by rock on you until it crushes you dead. Maybe you’ve felt that way. Where you’re getting choked out, you’re suffocating, it’s getting tight and if they put one more rock on you, you’re done.

Let’s talk about those rocks for a second. We’ll call them the amplifying or aggravating factors. These are the amplifying factors that make anxiety and depression worse. Again, they are not the thing that’s causing it. They are the things that are making it worse.

  • Your upbringing – how you were raised. This is your operating system. The good news is, it can be re-written and debugged.
  • Your circumstances – relationships, conflict, marriage, deadlines, divorce, a new job, parenting, expectations of others…

  • Your environment – anything from noise to lighting

  • Your body – eat, sleep, exercise.
  • Your genetics – physical, biological, and neurological factors. Because of this, for some people, medicine and counseling are a necessary part of facing anxiety and depression. Your doctors will agree that those treatments alone will fall short. There’s a spiritual side to the battle.
  • Technology – we are not equipped to deal with this constant, incoming stream of information
  • Content – not only are we letting a stream of information in all the time, we are letting in content that is not life-giving or helpful.

If you only tackle the amplifying factors to anxiety, you will never make it go away. What’s causing this constriction? What’s the source?

“In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.”  1 Peter 5:5-11 (NIV)

The Bible says your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a lion looking for someone he can eat alive. He’s looking for a family he can divide. Looking for a future he can ruin before it even gets started. Looking for a church he can divide, a nation he can divide, he’s looking for an addiction he can plant. The devil is busy and active.

When you believe in Jesus for the first time it’s like being born again. It’s a new life. The birthmark of a believer is a bullseyePeter is teaching us that we are born again into a living hope but as you are born again into hope, you are born into a very real battle. This is why Christians say “I’m under attack.”

Some people think God’s promise is that nothing will go wrong in their lives. That’s not his promise. In fact, Jesus says, “In this world you will have trouble.” Just because you love God, doesn’t mean you won’t be afflicted. But the Lord gives you the ability to stand strong and have peace, even in the face of a lion.

Look at this passage from the Apostle Paul, found in Philippians chapter 4, where he talks about how to guard against anxiety and how to have peace in the face of this lion.

“Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:7

God says, I guarantee you can experience God’s peace. This is a promise. But with this promise there’s a condition. Verse 7 starts with the word thenIf you do these things, then you will experience God’s peace. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. His peace will keep your thoughts quiet, keep your hearts at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus.

So let’s look at 5 things leading up to the word then that opens up this promise of peace.

First, if you want peace to guard your heart and mind, refuse to worry about anything.

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Don’t worry about anything…”  Philippians 4:6     

Paul says don’t worry about anything, because that’s where it begins. If you let things worry you again and again they become anxiety and depression. Yes, bad things may happen, but God is in control and he’s working all things together for good for those who love him. You may be sad or grieved, but do not be anxious, it’s all coming together for your good.

Second, if you want peace to guard your heart and mind, talk to God about everything.

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“…instead, pray about everything…”   Philippians 4:6

Stop talking to yourself and everyone else about all of the stuff that’s stressing you out and start talking to God. If it’s not worth praying about, it’s not worth worrying about.

Next, if you want peace to guard your heart and mind, thank God in all things.

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“…Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.”  Philippians 4:6

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”   1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NIV)

It doesn’t say thank God for all things because there are a lot of things you shouldn’t be thankful for. There’s pain in the world. But it says in all things give thanks. Which means, even in the bad times, I can find something to love. You don’t have to love everything about your life to love your life and be thankful for it. You don’t have to love everything about someone to love them. You don’t have to love everything about your job to love your job.

Study after study has shown that the healthiest emotion known to human beings is gratitude. The more you build gratitude in your life, the happier and healthier you will be. We know that gratitude is one of the remedies for depression because it gets my eyes off myself and gets them on other people.

The fact is, you can always find something to be grateful for. There’s no time in your life when everything is good and there’s nothing bad in your life. There’s no time when everything is bad and there’s nothing good in your life. The challenge for you this week is to open your mouth and say out loud “Thank you for my life.” Say it every day.

The fourth way to have peace guarding your heart and mind is to think about good things.

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This is extremely important because the anxiety and stress you war with, that battle, is going on in your mind. The war with stress is won or lost in your mind. What you fill your mind with will determine your success to resist and stand strong.

The Bible says,

“Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”  Philippians 4:8 


During World War II, Corrie ten Boom and her family lived in Amsterdam. They were a Christian family that took in Jewish friends and hid them in what they called “the hiding place” in their house to prevent their friends from being captured by the Nazis and shipped off to death camps. One day, the Nazis found out and not only took the Jewish friends but took Corrie and her family and they were taken to death camps in Poland. Corrie lost her entire family. She was the only one who survived. She says in her book, The Hiding Place,

“If you look at the world you’ll be distressed; if you look within you’ll be depressed. But if you look at Christ you’ll be at rest.” 

It all depends on what you have your eyes on. Don’t look within. Look to God, look at Christ.


Read 1 Peter 5:6-7 again,

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”  1 Peter 5:6-7 (NIV)

Too many of us, have been trying to cast our anxiety but we keep our pride. Pride and anxiety come in the same package. If you insist on doing it your way, then expect to feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders, because it is.

What is in the middle of the word ANXIETY? The same thing that is in the center of  the word PRIDE. I is the center of both of those words. Spiritually speaking, at the center of your anxiety is your pride. The reason that you’re so anxious is because you’ve got you at the center. You can’t sustain it because it’s not your throne. Listen to your language. “I don’t know if I have what it takes. I don’t know if I can do it. I don’t know if I can make it.” Maybe the reason you’ve been carrying anxiety that you can’t get rid of is because you’re bearing weight that you weren’t meant to bear. If you humble yourself under the mighty hand of God, you’ll think less about yourself. It’s not a command to cast your anxiety on him. It’s a result. The command is to humble yourself under God and when you do, the anxiety goes with the pride.

Get yourself out of the center, get God on the throne and lift your hands to him and say “I need you Lord.” Bow down to him. Tell him you can’t step without Him, can’t parent without Him, work without Him, live without Him. There’s no peace without Him. There’s no joy without Him.

Is the reason you’re so anxious because of your pride? Maybe the anxiety is the fruit and the pride is the root. If you pull it up by the root, the fruit can’t grow.

Lastly, if you want peace to guard your heart and mind, be content with anything.

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Contentment is not apathy. Contentment is not complacency. Here’s what contentment is: it’s enjoying what you have right now rather than waiting for something else to happen in order to be happy.  It’s not letting what you want rob you of what you have. It’s enjoying what you’ve got right now. It doesn’t mean you don’t want to progress. It doesn’t mean you don’t have goals. It means you’re not waiting for something to happen in your life in order to be happy.

“Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.”  Philippians 4:11-13

“Peace of mind makes the body healthy, but envy is like a cancer.”  Proverbs 14:30 (TEV)


How?

These five strategies are easy to explain but they’re hard to do. It’s not easy to worry about nothing.  It’s not easy to pray about everything. It’s not easy to thank God in everything. It’s not easy to think about good things. And it’s not easy to be content with anything. So where in the world am I going to get energy to do these things that reduce the anxiety? God tells us, You come to me. And I will give you the power and the ability to do what will help, to do what’s best for you.

“Obey God and be at peace with him; this is the way to happiness.”  Job 22:21 (NCV)

The real reason you’re not at peace is because you’re at war with God. God sent Jesus to make peace with God for us. When you make peace with God then you get the peace of God and then you can have peace with others. There will not be peace in the world until the Prince of Peace is reigning in our hearts. So in order for you to have the peace of God, you have to first have peace with God.

“For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”  Philippians 4:13

You don’t feel like praying? You don’t feel like giving thanks? You don’t feel like thinking about good things? You don’t feel like being content? You have to move.

Choices lead, feeling follow. When you move against your anxiety, the strength and peace of God comes.


Application

What stood out to you in this message?

What are you worried about?

What do you normally talk to God about?

What are some things you can be thankful for? Take an area of life (i.e. job) or a person in your life you are frustrated with, and start listing things you love about that thing or person.

What are some things (i.e. television shows, gossip, information) you could filter out of your life that would help you dwell on good things?

What things in your life are you not doing God’s way? How can you humble that pride?

Are you content with the things in your life?


Tell Someone Else

Who do you need to share this message with this week?

Something that extremely aggravates anxiety and depression is unresolved or unconfessed sin. Is there anything you could share with the group or something in the group that would relieve the pressure?

“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” James 5:16

Who can you share this life-giving message with?