The Tightrope of People Pleasing
By Callie, contributed as a Minnesota college student
As Christians, one of the biggest challenges we face in life is stabilizing our identity in Christ. Being created for relationship, we crave acceptance and love from the people surrounding us. Yet Christ calls us to crave his approval, not that of our peers. Galatians 1:10 states, “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
We often walk this tightrope between Christ and the world. The problem is, when we walk this tightrope, we are constantly straining ourselves and putting pressure on our joints. We think that by walking this line we can get the best of both worlds, but we are beating ourselves up in the process. We’re not truly belonging to either side, but just straining ourselves in the middle. We want each side to see us and admire our strength and poise. The problem is, the two sides find very different qualities admirable. It is impossible to please both.
If I base my identity off of what other people think about me, my life is going to be built on insecurity. With this identity, our worth is built on shallow acceptance that can change in a second. We will eventually just wear ourselves out trying to please every person that comes into our lives! We won’t truly understand who we are because we are constantly changing to please different people.
As Christians, we can’t live to please people—nor find our sense of self-worth in their acceptance— because we are also constantly running into people who have different beliefs than we do. If we want to please them, often this means we need to agree with them— and when their beliefs conflict with our deeply held spiritual beliefs, this will without a doubt mean sacrificing our devotion to God.
I’ve definitely found this to be true in my own life. I have always wanted to be liked by everyone and take it personally when I run into people who don’t. When I began to take classes completely online, my social system became the people that I worked with; I was no longer surrounded by peers who shared my faith. Being a people-pleaser who tries to make everyone happy doesn’t bode well when those around you have very different beliefs regarding God and morals. I found myself walking this tight rope, and I was absolutely miserable. I was terrified of speaking up for my own beliefs, knowing they’d be ridiculed by my peers. In effect, my relationship with God suffered. It made me realize that it is impossible to please both God and men. You need to make the decision about whose opinion truly matters.
In reality, Christ’s gave his life to make us worthy. It’s this simple fact on which we can to build our acceptance and self-worth. We need to make the choice to identify ourselves with Christ and find our worth in his everlasting and unchanging love. As the famous hymn says, “On Christ the solid rock I stand. All other ground is sinking sand.”