November 14, 2013
I have been a people-pleaser most of my life. Actually—I think I made it through high school and college in the shape that I did because I knew that being a good student and Christian would very much please my ambitious, emigrant, Haitian family.
I should have known then that I would probably end up working in the church, because it turns out people-pleasing is an area in which many of us pastor-types excel.
To a certain degree, this makes sense. Our call is to care for people and help them find wholeness in Christ. Generally, whole people are “pleased” with God and with us by extension. And we do our best to “give all the praise to God,” but c’mon, we love the goodwill that we receive because of God’s awesomeness (at least I know that I do). And this is not necessarily bad…
But when there are more people than we have the resources to care for and we get tired, our call degenerates. For me—generally into pandering, appeasing and thoughts along the lines of: “If I just show up and smile, I can make it through and they will be happy.”
But, if despite your people-pleasing tendencies you have genuine concern for your flock, here is the BIG, sad catch: people don’t want to be pleased and appeased; they want to be genuinely loved.
I have learned the HARD way that every time I show up to “serve” someone who needs (nags) me without explicit marching orders from the Holy Spirit, my “service” blows up in my face.
Generally, I show up tired, and despite my best acting Needy-Person-X can sense that I am not all there. Needy-Person-X doesn’t get what he/she wants/needs. Needy-Person-X is hurt. And I leave exhausted and—worse—discouraged about myself, Needy-Person-X, and about God’s ability to heal, in general…
Yeah, not ideal!
Genuine love is hard. Really, it can only come from God’s Holy Spirit making me aware of how much, despite my own brokenness, I am adored and provided for. And really, it can only happen within boundaries.
Boundaries that tell me that I am not God. Boundaries that remind me that I only can give what has been first been given to me by the Holy Spirit. Boundaries of rest, quiet and Sabbath that prove to my heart that God is the one at work, not me. And boundaries that prevent me from showing up, tired and needy myself, to “serve” what ends up being nothing more than my own ego and pride.
Joelinda is a second year M.Div. candidate. She currently serves as the Student Ministries Director at Grace Chapel’s Watertown campus. She is a lover of all things beautiful including theater, fall days in New England, chick flicks and the mountains. She counts bargain-hunting her sport and enjoys singing loudly while driving. Above all, Joelinda’s passion is to build relationships that help others understand the transformative power of the gospel.
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