Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Beyond People Pleasing

Sometimes I wish you readers could see the editing that goes on behind the scenes here at Maidservants of Christ. Helene and I edit one another's work, and I've gotten many a chuckle out of our notes to one another. We relentlessly scrutinize word choice, both for connotation and to make sure that we don't sound too nerdy. (I still think "hermeneutic" is worse than "amongst") Recently when reading Helene's post, I saw the phrase "people pleasers" in a list of negative terms (like nag and mean girls). I was taken aback because I thought wanting to please people was a good thing! Although Helene assured me that "people pleaser" is indeed a negative term, I didn't believe her until I read Beyond the Masquerade by Nancy Eichman.   

In this study book Mrs. Eichman deconstructs all the many ways we can be artificial in practicing our Christianity, and how we can work toward being more genuine.  She has a whole chapter on "people-pleasing," and by the end, I could see the negatives side of people pleasing.  I could also feel my toes aching! 

Every chapter of this book had a strong Biblical backbone, and this chapter was no exception.  She used the story of Aaron making the golden calf for the Israelites while Moses was on the mountain as a prime example of a Biblical people pleaser (Exodus 32). With this case in mind, the author described some of the traits of a people pleaser.  It was like looking in a mirror. 

Her first point is that Aaron was a "Conflict Avoider." When Moses came down the mountain, he was angry. Aaron tried to soothe his anger.  I would also point out that the act of making the golden calf in the first place was an attempt to avoid conflict. He didn't want a million plus people angry at him!  I understand where Aaron is coming from.  I hate it when anyone is mad at me; I feel like if someone is angry, it must be because I did something wrong.  If there is a chance someone will get mad if I speak up, I'm more likely to keep quiet, both in a public sphere and in personal relationships.  

While being a lurker on Facebook may be harmless (do I really need to contribute to the endless debates?), silently assenting to sin in my personal relationships can be devastating.  When I let my son get away with defiance because I don't want to hear him throw a fit, when I quietly watch married friends get divorced because I don't want to hurt their already raw feelings, when I don't correct a Sister's erroneous beliefs about the Bible because I don't want to argue, I am being a people pleaser instead of pleasing God. Even worse than silent assent is verbal approval of sin in order to fit in. Boss bashing at work, laughing at a friend's dirty jokes, things I wouldn't normally do and don't approve of seem to happen without thought when I am trying to make people happy.  

Eichman next says that instead of recognizing the problem, the people pleaser often justifies her actions.  That's what Aaron did.  My favorite excuse in the Bible is when Aaron said, "Do not let the anger of my lord burn; you know the people yourself, that they are prone to evil...I said to them, 'Whoever has any gold, let them tear it off.' So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf" (Exodus32:22,24).  They wanted me to do it!  This calf just popped out!  For Aaron, the end result of a happy people justified the means of idolatry, despite the fact that God had already told them not to make images.  So he made excuses. I've made excuses too.  When I've kept silent, I've soothed myself by saying "They wouldn't listen to me anyway. Since I didn't make them mad, I can be there for them later."  I've told myself that I have to listen to the raunchy talk so that I don't look like a prude.  No one wants to be around a stick in the mud.  

Seeing the sin of people pleasing in my life staring at me from the pages of this book was not pleasant, but Mrs. Eichman did more than point out problem areas.  In each chapter, she gave ideas on how to be more genuine and pleasing to God. For me, perhaps the best advice was also the simplest.  "People pleasing is often a self defeating cycle that can only be broken by realizing we have no control over others, only ourselves." Since I'm a recovering control freak, I should probably write this on a card and take it with me wherever I go!

The chapter on people-pleasing was only one of the sections of this book that caused me to take a good hard look at how genuine I really am, and how some of my tendencies are more sinful than I realized.   I would recommend this book to any Christian woman trying to be more authentic in her walk with Christ.  


Beyond the Masquerade is published by Gospel Advocate and is available here.

We were given Beyond the Masquerade for free for the purposes of review.  No compensation was provided, and the opinions given are entirely mine.  

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission

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