People Pleasing to the Glory of God

If you are a man reading this article, I'm going to try to explain this phenomenon as best I can, but don't worry if you don't fully grasp.  Women are funny creatures.  We are in a constant state of checking in and making comparisons.  Comparing kids. “What are you wearing to the wedding?” “You’re getting dessert? Me too.” “Can you believe she did that?"  We talk about each other's kids.  We talk about EVERYTHING.  What we really want to know when we do these things is “Am I doing okay?” 
Men are different on this front.  I'm pretty sure my husband looks at me like I have no head when I ask him what he's wearing to an event.  Men think hierarchically.  Men one up each other when they tell stories and jokes. They endlessly memorize sports statistics but struggle to remember their own birthday.  And when they hear women talk about each other's kids - they think we are mean and cut throat.  Because if men were talking this way, it would be. 
The truth is, however, male or female we all want to be approved of.  There are some of us, who at the very core of our being want so desperately to be approved of by others it becomes a part of everything we do.  But what’s so wrong with that?  Aren’t we supposed to love others and sacrifice for them?  Shouldn’t I be considerate of other people?  Aren't I commended in Scripture to put others needs before my own.  Don't I become all things to all people that I might win some?  Don't I give up my own freedom for the sake of a brother or sister in Christ?  The answer is a resounding YES! (And I think I see another post coming).  Well?
There are two kinds of people - people pleasers and God pleasers.   From the outside in, they can look very much the same.  For the sake of the rest of this post, let's get make sure we're on the same page.
·     People pleaser- one who adjusts behavior in order to gain the approval or avoid the rejection of  God or another person
·     God pleaser – one who is convinced of God’s approval of Christ and adjusts behavior in order to magnify the work of Christ in their own life or the life of another
By the way, this is not a new struggle.  I can think of a few people pleasers in Scripture...
·         Pontius Pilate (Luke 23; Matthew 27)
·         Peter (Galatians 2:11)
·         Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5)
·         “The hypocrites” (Matt. 6:3-4, 5, 16-18)
·         The Jews in relation to the Pharisees (John 12:42-3)
·         Slaves (Ephesians 6:5-9)
·         The Galatians
This is by no means an exhaustive list... if you can think of any more - post a coment.  I would love to hear your thoughts.

As I said before, people pleasers and God-pleasers can look very much the same.  They make sacrifices.  They do for others.  They give.  The difference lies completely in the motivation by which they sacrifice, do, and give.  What does this look like?
People Pleasers                                        God Pleasers   
Motivated by  fear of man                                         Motivated by love of God
Marked by uncertainty and anxiety                         Marked by confidence and boldness
Sacrifice produces resentment/regret                     Sacrifice produces joy/contentment
Willing to compromise the truth                              Upholds the truth
Makes own name great                                              Makes Christ’s name great
Lives in bondage                                                          Lives in freedom
Seeks to gain approval                                               Knows approval is secure
Selfish                                                                           Selfless
Self-deprecating or self-promoting                        Humble (has an accurate picture of self)
Poor boundaries                                                        Healthy Boundaries
Difficulty making decisions                                     Clarity making decisions
Fears failure                                                               Willing to risk failure
Asks, “What seems right?”                                       Asks, “What IS right?”
As I was reading about this, I saw a quote on Lifechurch's website. “Becoming obsessed with what others think about you is the fastest way to forget what God thinks about you.” – Mike (they didn't post his last name, so I won't either).  I would propose to you that in the same way, the fastest way to rid yourself of obsession with what others think about you is to remember what God thinks about you.

That is my aim for the rest of this post.  So, as best I can tell in God's word, here's how we resist that tug to please others rather than please God.
1.       Put to death the sin of people pleasing.  Call it what it is and repent.  John Owen wrote, "Be killing sin, or it will be killing you."  It may sound harsh to call it a "sin" but at the very heart of people pleasing is idolatry.  And it will kill your soul.
2.       Preach the Gospel to Yourself (I learned this concept from Jerry Bridges - if you've read any of his books you've heard this before).   I have often fell prey to the misconception that the gospel is only for those who do not believe, when quite the opposite is true.  The gospel is for for believers.  The gospel is for sinners who need a Savior.  I still need the gospel today and forever.
Remember what is it that God thinks about you? In Mark 1, "God said of Jesus, "This is my son in whom I am well pleased."  And in that beautiful transaction of the cross, we see that big five dollar theological word... imputation; Your sin is assigned to Christ's account and Christ's righteousness is assigned to you.  In other words, since God is pleased with Jesus and at the cross Christ's righteousness is assigned to you, we can rightly conclude: He is pleased with you because he has already declared he is pleased with Christ.
3.   Walk in freedom – Galatians 4 
Sarah and Hagar gave birth to Isaac and Ishmael.  Remember the story.  Sarah is promised an heir at an impossibly old age.  She laughs.  She takes matters into her own hands.  Isaac is born by God’s doing.  Ishmael (although also by God’s doing, bear with me for the point) is born by Sarah’s doing.  Isaac is a son of the promise.  Ishmael is the son of the slave woman.  Pick up in verse 28-5:1.  If you go back to earning favor with God (or others) by what you do, you are no longer walking in freedom.  You do what is right because he has declared you righteous.
4.   Change the way you think.  Luther used to say "Das is nit Christo" (this is not Christ) in every thought that was not God-honoring or in line with the truth of Scripture.  We see this in Romans 12 – be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  When you are tempted to be a people pleaser rather than a God pleaser, declare to yourself, have others declare to you, read, memorize, and meditate on the truth of the gospel of Christ. 
As I write this, I am knee deep in going to battle with this sin.  And I would commend you and I alike: Let us seek to be pleasers of God rather than pleasers of people. 


  1. Hairpin!
    The whole time I was reading this it reminded me of 2 Corinthians 3:18- But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord the Spirit.

    Thank you for such a challenging post! Counting down the days until trailblazing!! -Au-Bams

  2. Currently reading "Respectable Sins" by Bridges and wrote this in my journal this morning: "Preach the gospel to yourself... I don't know if I'm getting this." Thank you for being part of the "aha" today. :)

  3. I see this so much in myself--thanks for posting this! Hope you are doing well!

  4. So timely....todays speaker at our Ladies Luncheon at church, Dr. Henderson, spoke on finding Purpose beyond rejection. "People pleasing" will fail us every time! "God pleasing" was His plan all along because it brings us back to glorifying Him!

  5. Can you give scriptures you recommend for the renewing of my mind?

    1. I would love to recommend some. Is there a particular area of life that you feel you need to transform?