A prison is a place of confinement, a place without freedom, a place of loneliness. Nobody would voluntarily enter a prison. However, many people have entered into a prison of their own making. This prison is the prison of being a people-pleaser. A people-pleaser is one who desires to please others before pleasing God. By trying to please others, they face the great problem of trying to please competing interests. A people-pleaser doesn’t make decisions in light of what God says, but what others expect.
We are susceptible to become a people-pleaser. It is natural for us to want others to like and accept us. Being a people-pleasure is difficult because there are many competing interests that are coming from various directions. What one person thinks is the right decision; another person takes the opposite view. As a people-pleaser, we live our lives by the opinions and demands of others, instead of seeking to please our Lord God.
One Christian who found freedom from the prison of being a people-pleaser was the Apostle Paul. In his ministry, Paul constantly received criticism from others. Paul could find acceptance with various people by surrendering his ministry to the opinions of others. However, Paul chose not to enter the prison of being a people-pleaser. He found freedom by desiring to please only one person, God, His Father. “Even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts.” (1 Thessalonians 2:4)
How can we find the freedom that Paul found? First of all, Paul understood the danger of being a pleaser of men. He knew that it would be impossible to please God, if he was always seeking to please people with their ever-changing opinions, desires and goals. He also understood that men, being sinners, could not always see life from God’s perspective. Paul knew that when he kept his eyes upon what men thought, he would soon forget to keep his eyes focused upon God.
Secondly, Paul understood that God was his Master. We don’t serve ten masters or twenty masters. No, we serve one Master. Our goal is to please the very One who loves us and knows what is best for us. We submit to Him as Lord. Yes, in living for our Master, we may serve others, but our eyes are always upon pleasing Him. When we become a people-pleaser, we no longer are submitting to the Lord as our Master. Many people have ruined their lives because they sought to please others at the cost of pleasing the Lord God
Thirdly, people are very quick to wrongly judge our motives; God knows our motives because he knows our every thought and attitude. Paul understood that God is the One who will ultimately test our hearts. God knows not only what we do, but why we do it. A people-pleaser can’t please everybody thus they feel frustration and guilty. People are often quite harsh in their judgment of our actions. God sees our hearts. If our hearts are clear before God then we will be free from being a people-pleaser.
Fourthly, people tend to be selfish. They want to control or even bully others to follow their desires, opinions and goals. Their desire is self-focused instead of God-focused. God’s will is not only for His own Glory, but for our benefit. Others can’t see the big picture, God sees it. He loves us and wants what is best for us. When we focus on God’s wisdom and plan, we will be free from the limited understanding of those around us.
Being a Christian doesn’t mean that we ignore the people we love and serve, but it does mean that their opinions should not imprison us. God can use the thoughts of others to give us direction, but we must not take our focus from the One whom we are truly serving. Yes, we can try to make those around us happy, but it must never be at the cost of displeasing our Master. When we become imprisoned by the desires of others, we will never be free to serve our True Master.
“Dear Lord, I find myself tempted to be a people-pleaser. I don’t enjoy the criticism that comes my way when I make decisions. I want you to use me in the lives of others. However, I realize that when I become imprisoned by the desires of others, I can no longer be useful to you or to others. Please help me to keep my focus upon you. Help me to discern the difference between my will and your will. I know in my heart, that in pleasing you that I will reach my full potential of being a blessing to others.