I have wondered in recent days and weeks as to the kind of woman I am and am still becoming. There are certain struggles of mine, specific sins still lingering. Rather than falling to the floor in confession and repentance, I often look to others and secretly wonder how I will ever compare. The Lord has shown me in great measure just how sinful and pleasing to man such an attitude truly is, and how much it eats away.
There is a familiar phrase than I have often denied being defined by, and that quite simply is being a people pleaser. In times past I have refused to think of myself as one grouped into such a category of people. I observe the acts and attitudes I have refrained from since an early age, anything from drug use to staunch legalism, and I have had a persistent desire to walk in a manner worthy of being considered in imitator of Christ.
Then I was overcome by a dull, almost sickening realization. It came about after spending time with a friend who was helping me move into a new apartment. She was openly and honestly telling me of times when she has been a people pleaser. Whether choosing a career based on other peoples’ opinions, or engaging in events or behaviors to win the approval of friends, she was starting to realize these things and just how great a weakness this is for her. A matter of days later, I had a very disheartening conversation on the phone with a family member, and all the weighty struggles I have with my family came like a flood. I was angry and exhausted, and did not know what to do with myself other than cry and sulk.
And that is when it hit me. My struggle with pleasing man has not ever really been a blatantly overt act, but rather one much more deep and hidden from common interactions with others. The sin is so deep that it quickly affects every aspect of my being. The external area most affected is in my relationships with particular members of my family. I cower more than I should in the face of opposition, all the while screaming on the inside. I weep in the quiet of my room, yet do not outwardly proclaim to them that hope and life are only in Jesus Christ. How cowardly, how devastating, and how much this robs me of joy…
Consider this a confession. I have realized through rather difficult means provided by the Lord that I have had a one-sided view of people pleasing over the years. People pleasing is not merely an outward weakness of giving in to others in order to win approval. I think a much more destructive form is that which buries itself deep in our souls, so much that we began to believe that when certain emotions arise those emotions are merely a weakness in our character or personality. How deceiving this is from realizing the truth of that which robs of life and joy in the Lord. As someone who is not great at confession, this is my confession. The Lord is gracious, and is daily showing me where this arm needs to be cut off. Our hope is not in the things of this world. On a very practical level, that includes my mother, other godly women He has graciously brought into my life, as well as the career for which I am preparing. My hope is not in the wisest men and women I know, but in Christ alone.
"Be killing sin or [sin] will be killing you."
--John Owen, Mortification of Sin in Believers
"I repent...of paying for what I get for free
and for the way I believe that I'm living right
by trading sins for others that are easier to hide
I am wrong and of these things I repent"
--Derek Webb, "I Repent"
O LORD, You have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, You know it altogether….
For You formed my inward parts; You knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are Your works; my soul knows it very well…..
How precious to me are Your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with You…..
Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! ---Psalm 139