At heart, I’m a people pleaser.
Not the type that lets popular fashion dictate my wardrobe, or the opinion of my friends to tell me where I should go or what I should do, but nonetheless, I am a people pleaser.
What other people think of me matters, at least, it matters to me. I’ve spent most of my life trying not to fit a stereotype.
I didn’t want to be just another boy, lumped in with all the gross over-generalisations made of the juvenile male species.
I don’t want to be just another man, put in the pigeon-hole of masculine incompetence.
I certainly don’t want to be just another husband or father, perpetuating the general consensus of how inept we are at loving our wives or bringing up our children.
I love it when people say, “But you don’t look like a pastor!”
Yet in all my efforts to break the mould, to not live up to expectations, I have to admit that it still only proves that I’m deeply concerned with other peoples thoughts about who I am.
And I find that disturbing. After all, the term ‘people pleaser’ is akin to a dirty word these days… particularly within church circles.
Yet recently, I’ve been wondering if there’s not a place for a specific type of ‘people pleasing’?
As I’ve been reading through the book of Romans, it seems to me that Paul is advocating a type of deep concern for others opinions and how we live together as God’s people, that I need to pay attention to.
Look at Paul’s rapid-fire list of gospel infused, new kingdom, sermon on the mount sounding, commands.
Romans 12:9–21 (ESV)
9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Emphasis mine)
It seems that Paul is advocating a deliberate and strategic lifestyle, thought through in advance, as to how I can live my life honourably in the sight of others. Now I realise that the immediate context here relates to responding to others who may have evil intent toward me, yet it is the ‘in the sight of all’ phrase that caught my attention. We are to consider everyone else before deciding what we should do with the life we’ve been given.
In a gospel informed way, other people’s opinions of us should matter. Not in a way that panders to the whims of our fickle society, but in a way that cuts against the grain of our self-centred culture and shows the world what it looks like to live for something, or someone, else other than ourselves.
Philippians 2:3–4 (ESV)
3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
So I am a people pleaser, and you probably are to.
The question is, which type of people pleaser are we?