One of my guilty pleasures is taking online personality quizzes and reading articles about personality types and the theories about what motivates people in each category. I’ve taken countless quizzes, but one common theme in all of them is that I have a deep desire to feel loved and appreciated by others. This quality, both in myself and in other people, often has a tendency to cause a pattern of people-pleasing. In best-case scenarios, the craving for love can lead to sincere empathy for others. But unfortunately it can also lead to behaviors that don’t always line up with Jesus’ teachings.
I’ve found comfort in discovering I am not alone in my people-pleasing ways. For those of you who fall into this category, here is what I’ve learned about how to counter the negative effects of the desire to be loved by other people.
1. Stop putting your value in the approval of others. Instead, seek God’s approval
The story of two sisters named Mary and Martha in the book of Luke perfectly demonstrates how twisted our priorities are on earth compared to the Kingdom of Heaven. Martha was frantically trying to entertain guests while her sister simply sat at the feet of Jesus, soaking up His presence. When Martha told Jesus to rebuke her sister for not helping her host, Jesus replied, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed — or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42)
It’s important to remember that while we might not always be praised here on earth for our devotion to Christ, Jesus is watching us and we will be rewarded in Heaven for seeking His approval rather than the world’s. In order to value God’s approval above others, we must:
2. Put God first
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)
Jesus taught that even our most essential needs like food and shelter are not as important as the presence of God in our lives. If we seek God’s face first and foremost, He will provide all of our other needs, especially our need to feel loved and comforted.
3. Stand Firm in Your Beliefs when you feel pressured to follow the crowd
“As we mature to the full measure of the stature of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching” (Ephesians 4:13-14)
When people in our lives behave in ways that challenge our Christian beliefs, it’s crucial for us to stand firm in what we know to be right and true rather than giving in to the temptation to be liked at all costs. In order to have confidence in our faith, we must:
4. Meditate and have God’s truth on our hearts so we can use it as the standard against the tests of life
“Blessed is the one ... whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.” (Psalm 1:2)
Applying God’s truth to any and every situation is the key to living a fruitful and peace-filled life, especially when we face conflict. Avoiding conflict is a major motivator for people-pleasers. However, unfortunately, because we live in a fallen world there will inevitably be times when conflict does arise. When it does, rather than avoiding the problem, we should:
5. Look to Jesus as the example for how resolve conflicts
Jesus said, "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother." (Matthew 18:15)
Sometimes as Christians, we have to do the hard thing and rebuke our friends if they’re behaving in a way that’s detrimental to their spiritual growth. In these times we should ask Jesus for His discernment, strength, and most of all, love in order to handle these situations properly.
6. Learn to channel your desire to please others into finding opportunities to show them the love of Christ
“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” (Colossians 4:5-6)
Like I said, people-pleasing isn’t always a bad thing. God wants us to love our neighbors as ourselves and to live in peace. When we learn to apply these Biblical teachings to our lives, God has the power to take the best aspects of our personalities and use them for His glory.