“If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31
Self respect has nothing to do with reputation or the approval of others. People-pleasing is a miserable way to live. You turn yourself inside out for them and just when you think you have succeeded, they change their minds. Apart from stealing your peace of mind, approval-seeking makes it impossible to follow God’s directives, and ultimately that is your greatest loss. But changing the habits of a life time is not easy; it requires an act of real faith and asking God for the courage to follow through. David said, “I know…you are with me…I…am not afraid. No one can harm me” Ps 56:9 – 11. And Paul asks, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Understand two things:
- Breaking the approval cycle means risking rejection by saying no when others expect to hear yes. When people are used to meek, complaint responses, they will react negatively till they get used to the “new you”. Certainly navigating uncharted waters is intimidating, but is it really any worse than living the rest of your life in fear of other people’s reactions?
- You may have to explain to others that in the past you sought their approval because you felt insecure, but that is no longer the case. The important thing is to act now. Breaking any addiction involves discomfort and suffering, but the only other option is spending your life feeling trapped. You can choose to suffer short-term on the way to freedom or long-term by continuing to engage in the struggle to please others. So, which will it be?
Approval seeking cost Saul his kingdom. God had told him to wait for Samuel to come before offering the evening sacrifice, but because Samuel was late and the people were getting impatient, Saul disobeyed. And when Samuel questioned him, he replied, “When I saw…the people…slipping away from me…I…offered the burnt offering…. Samuel said, “You have done foolishly…The Lord would have established your kingdom…now it will not continue” 1 Sam 13:11 – 13. Saul compromised his future because he feared man more than God.
Paul says, “Express truth in all things” Eph 4:15. Approval seeking is basically dishonest, because people pleasers are not candid about their feelings. You are telling people what they want to hear, rather than what you need to say! You do not have to be rude, but you do not have to be a wimp either. Just because somebody does not want to hear the truth does not negate your responsibility to speak it.
Have you often felt torn about things people are asking you to do? One way God leads is through a sense of peace. Isaiah talks about being “led forth with peace” Isa 55:12 and Paul says, “pursue…things which make for peace” Rom 14:19. When you do not have peace about doing something it is OK to say so. In fact, people should not expect you to proceed till you do. But that rarely happens when people want your help to fulfill their agenda! Jesus told His disciples that when people will not “receive…nor listen to your message, as you leave…shake the dust…from your feet” Matt 10:14. So, when somebody’s reaction threatens to stop you from doing what you feel God wants you to do, be courageous, shake it off and move on.