We love Jesus… so why are we still dealing with these issues? In this series, we address how the gospel frees us from the shame associated with our daily sins and struggles, and then helps us overcome them.
By Tamra Dalbey
Most of my life I have been a natural–born people pleaser. Even as a kid, I fed off the attention given from a job well done, with being the good girl. There have been many times I’ve come away from some event with my cheeks almost hurting from fake smiling. This is what people pleasers do. We do it when we feel the need to say “yes” even when our schedules won’t allow. Or when in conversation, we make sure to “tidy up” all the less desirable parts of our life, squeezing in any details that might make us sound put together. Gross, right, when you think about it? It’s one of those Christian “closet” sins. Like sin that’s dressed up all pretty and overly agreeable.
This is a much bigger problem than we might realize. That’s because people pleasing is a camouflaged form of idolatry.
It’s those times we long for affirmation and approval from people so much, that it actually HAS us. When self-serving momentarily bumps God off the throne of our hearts. It all seems rather harmless at the time, but it doesn’t make this sin any less destructive. All sin leads to death, and this one… even in infancy, can grow into an absolute monster if let alone. The enemy knows this and wants to keep it all hidden so that it might have an excuse to remain. It’s why it is so critical to have the mind of Christ— to have a renewed mind.
It is important that we get our affirmation from the right source. If we don’t we’ll always be operating from a deficit.
So what kills people pleasing? For me, it has been dying as I become more fully aware of God’s love, just like these verses testify:
“…that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us…” (Ephesians 3:16-20)
The word comprehend here means: to lay hold of; to take possession of; to detect and catch; to perceive.
We need to know this Love… to take hold of him, and let him take hold of us. To let Love mend and heal us from a lifetime of looking for affirmation in all the wrong places. To get to know more intimately a God that loves so completely that he turns our striving into rest.
I love that in verses 18 and 19 Paul asks that believers might be able to comprehend Christ’s love, and how in 20 he declares that God is able to accomplish this exceedingly abundantly. He reveals his great love to us according to the power that works in us— through his Spirit. We can be re-taught by Love himself!
These verses also point out that it isn’t by default that a believer comprehends God’s love. There are depths of his love that need searching out. Thankfully, the Word is filled with content that not only tells us of his love, but shows us how he loves. He loves us LOUDLY, as fiercely as the veil was violently ripped from top to bottom. So that when we wonder why he seems quiet or distant, Christ’s finished work can break through the silence: This cross is how much I love you!!!
My face that once hurt from “plastic” smiling sometimes still hurts— but now it’s from an overflow of joy that can’t be artificially manufactured. He turns plastic into authentic. I can step away from something that used to drain me and now be energized as he pours out of me. What used to be a social struggle can become an opportunity to love in a way that God loves. Compassion comes where we used to get annoyed. Because he goes to work on the inside man.
God actually transfers his powerful love to us… because he is God in us. The world around us can be changed… not because we’re great but because he’s chosen to be great through us. What a marvel, what a privilege.
Realizing the height and the depth of his love melts away our desire for people’s affirmation… because we’re so filled to overflowing with his affirmation. This is that “being filled with all the fullness of God” part that Ephesians 3:19 speaks of. And I can say, from experience, that when that happens, people pleasing dies, giving birth to God pleasing and people serving. It’s like Ephesians 6:6 says:
“…not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart…”
Heart change is the authentic response to receiving such thorough love.
So then, I get to just simply love people. I don’t have to be perfect, or say the things I think they want to hear me say. I get to simply be me— with my own unique set of weaknesses and giftings— and let the chips fall where they may. I’m okay if people don’t think I’m amazing, because the Lover of my soul delights in me. No more worries of trying to hit the moving target of a fickle audience’s approval. Because I have the eternal approval of the King.
I still find myself naturally wanting to go back to my old way of insecure thinking and fake smiling. But it should be made known that no matter what your hidden shame is, God is in the business of transforming natural into supernatural. He makes all things new. NO sin or struggle is stronger than his grace. He already bought our right standing before the Father, now he is patiently (painfully slow at times), but gloriously, changing us into his image.
Let his love encourage us to run freely. Not thinking we are somehow shackled to some phantom weight, like the bird with an open cage that won’t fly to freedom. He bought us out of shame, removing the hindrance it would become to us. He purchased for us liberty. What a gift that we are truly UNASHAMED, by the power of his great love and grace.