Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe. Proverbs 29:25
I had times of real fear as a college-aged camp counselor. I remember the first night I had bats in my cabin. I remember the day I stepped on a yellow jacket nest and had seven stings up my leg. The Health Hut took care of me, and to this very day, I have to carry an epi-pen. I remember going on the high ropes course and screaming my head off in fear. I remember being terrified to drive a camp van through the pouring rain to get campers back to camp after a water skiing day.
But even all those events weren’t as terrifying as one particular type of fear:
The fear of what other people think about me.
I’ve spent most of my life trying to win the approval of people. I was terrified to have anyone be upset with me. I needed everyone to like me, so I exhausted myself pleasing people all day long. Guess what? This year, I actually started practicing saying “no” and letting folks be upset with me. I couldn’t please everyone. In fact, pleasing people became a sort of weird idol.
One of the marks of emotionally mature spirituality is the ability to seek God’s approval and not man’s.
It’s the ability to say “no” when God isn’t leading you in that way, and to realize you cannot meet everyone’s needs.
At Greystone one evening, a counselor asked me why I was trying so hard to get people to like me. She told me that I could seek to be a blessing to people, but I didn’t need everyone’s approval. I could be free to be myself and follow God’s leading instead of scampering around trying to make everyone happy. These lessons have carried over into being a parent (you really cannot make your children happy; they’re responsible for their own happiness), into my career (not everyone will adore you), and my public life (negative reviews, terrible blog comments, or insults). I’ve learned to go about my specific calling and please Jesus.
I want to be a servant of Christ and not a slave of public opinion.
When you’re a people-pleaser, you don’t know how to say “no.” When you’re a people pleaser, you follow the crowd. When you’re a people-pleaser, your greatest fear is that nobody will like you. When you’re a people-pleasure, you’re more concerned with your reputation than pleasing God.
Remember this: A people-pleaser’s greatest fear is that she is not loved. God loves you deeply, and you are never alone. Ask God to help you be yourself. Some people will love you. Some people won’t. What matters is that God loves you, and that’s always enough.