Skip to main content

The Snare of People-Pleasing

We are continuing our series about ways that controlling people try to control others.  You can check out the posts about control and boundaries, the trying to manipulate others with guilt, and playing the martyr from earlier in the week.  Today’s topic is how we sometimes try to manipulate others and maintain control by being  people-pleasers.

Is “peace” at any cost a good thing?  Is it really peace?

PEOPLE PLEASING

Being a “People-Pleaser” SOUNDS like a virtue, right?    I mean, isn’t it great to try to make everyone be happy with you and not have people angry at you?  The Bible says we are supposed to live in peace as far as it depends on us, after all.  It is easy for people-pleasers to take certain scriptures and believe that what we are doing is godly. But often, we have a very warped definition of love and we trust self more than God and feel we have to be “in charge,” not understanding God’s sovereignty and not submitting fully to Christ as Master.

Here is a list (from Vickie Champion – a psychologist/life coach) of attributes of people pleasers. I have not researched her methods and approach.  So I am not endorsing her counseling techniques, but this list may be helpful.

Here are 52 Ways to Recognize the Chronic, Ingrained People Pleaser…

The perpetual people pleaser…

1   Always avoid conflicts or even disagreements.

2   Makes it a habit to say yes when he or she wants to say no.

3   Constantly worries about hurting others’ feelings.

4   Has no idea what their dreams or goals are.

5   Feels they are never “good” enough.

6   Would rather be nice and perfect than happy.

7   Functions totally from “shoulds.”

8   Assures they always do more than their share.

9   Rarely makes decisions, putting it off on anyone else to do it.

10  Is baffled by the concept, take it easy and relax.

11  Confuses being “needed” with being “loved.”

12  Has a never-ending time management problem.

13  Avoids giving themselves credit for anything.

14  Makes it a practice to please strangers and neglect loved ones.

15  Easily attracts people who need to be rescued and consoled.

16  Strongly believes they need to “do” something to be “loved” or even “accepted.”

17  Is very insecure about their abilities, knowledge or just about anything they do.

18  Routinely operates on auto pilot.

19  Jumps to volunteer, especially for jobs that no one else will do.

20  Feels exhausted from always trying to be “perfect.”

21  Has a huge fear of letting their friends, family and even strangers down.

22  Almost always feel undeserving.

23  Thinks nothing of telling lies to not rock the boat.

24  Overpromises.

25  Constantly seeks approval from others, but could care less about their own opinions.

26  Overapologizes.

27  Wastes time with people who really don’t care or consider their needs.

28  Think they are solely responsible for others’ happiness.

29  Are scared to death of being called selfish, even for an instant.

30  Rarely, if ever, asks for help or accepts help.

31  Constantly suppresses anger, fearing rejection.

32  Would much rather be nice than be real.

33  Has no desire to listen and follow their intuition.

34  Continuously holds back from saying what they really think and feel.

35  Often feels trapped.

36  Are scared to death of being wrong or taking any kind of risk.

37  Reduces their own anxiety by focusing on others’ needs.

38  Comes unglued easily when under pressure.

39  Has plenty of regrets.

40  Tries to provide and control everything in the relationship without considering their own feelings and needs.

41 Are willing to bend over backwards to make unhappy, self-centered, controlling people feel better about themselves.

42  Becomes paralyzed with little nightmares we make up about “if we said and did this, they will say and do that.”

43  Is extremely critical of themselves.

44  Has a really hard time accepting kindness from others.

45  Has poor problem-solving skills.

46  Is unable to direct or supervise others.

47  Feels guilty about not accomplishing enough or not being able to make everyone happy.

48  Runs on the praise and appreciation of other people.

49  Seldom, if ever, expresses an opinion of their own.

50  Is secretly terrified of being “found out” that they are not as good as they appear to others.

51  Displays a bland personality. They don’t want to appear interesting, unique, or challenging. Nope, too risky.

52  Wonders why everyone seems to take advantage of them and why they get little respect?

WAS I EVER A PEOPLE-PLEASER?

YEP!!!!!!!!!!  I sure was.  This mindset was another core part of my sinful heart and a big part of why I was controlling and disrespectful.  That probably seems contradictory that a people-pleaser would be a controlling and disrespectful wife.  But I was more concerned about pleasing strangers and people outside of my family than my husband.  I didn’t want my husband to be mad at me – EVER.  But I also didn’t realize that he actually was upset with me a lot because he didn’t say how he felt – he was so distant.

I was ALWAYS worried about what other people thought and would play conflicts over and over every waking moment for weeks and months trying to decide what I could have/should have said.

I thought if I was NICE enough and kind enough that I could keep people from being mad at me.  (Have you ever worked in a retail pharmacy?  Yeah.  This strategy got me some customer service awards, but it doesn’t work on everyone!  Some people are going to be angry at me.  It won’t matter what I do.  Well, if I gave them drugs illegally, they might be happy with me, but then I will have other problems!)

I was terrified of conflict. Lots, but not all, of the things on this list applied to me.

PEOPLE-PLEASING = IDOLATRY!!!!!

People pleasing is an insidious form of idolatry, unfortunately – and it brings a whole host of other sins along with it – as idolatry always does!  I white wash it and try to believe that my motives are pure – and that it is good not to ever have someone be upset with me.  But my true motives are not pure at all.  What I am really doing is:

  • putting the approval of others above the approval of God (and often above the approval of my husband).  This is idolatry!
  • fearing men (people) rather than fearing God in a proper, respectful, healthy way. I am allowing others to control me instead of making Christ truly Lord and Master.
  • attempting to have peace on a false premise (doing anything to prevent others from being upset) instead of on the truth of God’s Word (love God, love others).
  • I fear the anger of other people and base my behavior on avoiding the possibility of some person’s anger instead of living to honor God.
  • BEING DISHONEST.  I am not saying how I feel.  I am not saying what I want. I   am not saying what I don’t want and then I am resentful of other people for “making” me do what I don’t want to do.  Then I can’t forgive them for my feeling obligated to do things for them and am tied up with the sin of unforgiveness, too!  WHEW!
  • Unforgiveness may seem small – but it is a huge sin!  The Bible teaches that even allowing anger/resentment to continue over one night gives the enemy a foothold.  Imagine what happens when unforgiveness, bitterness and resentment take deep root and grow unchecked for YEARS!
  • avoiding saying “no” because I am not strong enough to say no to things I don’t want to do.  I am allowing others to be responsible for me instead of being responsible for myself before God.  That is poor stewardship and it won’t wash before our holy God!  He will hold me accountable for my own behavior, sins and actions.  He will hold others accountable for theirs.
  • instead of being arrogantly prideful – I am prideful in a false-humility kind of way.  I put myself down and feel unworthy and speak terrible things about myself in my mind and to others.  I do not believe God’s Word about who I am in Christ.  I do not acknowledge  that I am made in the image of God and am fearfully and wonderfully made.  I do not acknowledge that my purpose in life is to glorify God.  I do not allow God’s power to flood my soul and fill me to empower me to be the godly woman God has designed me to be.  I stay in a prison of my own making, feeling sorry for myself, wallowing in my unworthiness, wasting my true potential, burying my talents in the dirt.  I don’t really believe I am a daughter of the King,  and I go voluntarily sit in the dungeon instead of at the King’s table.
  •  I have not fully yielded my heart to Christ as LORD.
  • REFUSING TO HAVE FAITH IN GOD.
  • giving up my influence authority in my marriage by refusing to speak up about my desires, my needs, my wants and my perspective.  My marriage and family suffer when I don’t know my mind, don’t know my feelings, don’t know my desires and don’t share my important perspective.  How can my husband lead properly if I am not fulfilling my responsibilities and providing important information for him to make the best decisions?
  • refusing to have any dreams.   I do need to die to myself and live for Christ.  But when I am living for Christ, He will give me dreams, desires, goals and His will.  I will be full of life, zeal, purpose, joy, peace, love and all the fruit of the Spirit.
  • setting a very negative emotional/spiritual temperature for the family.  Everyone is affected by my depressed mood, my negativity, my hopelessness, my anxiety, my fear, my worry and my lack of God’s presence.
  • setting an ungodly example of femininity and marriage for my children.
  • idolizing “being nice” instead of loving God and loving people.
  • my motives are fear based, not love based.
  • avoiding obeying God’s Word about how to handle conflict  when I am sinned against. Matthew 7:1-5 and Matthew 18:16-18. I am to go to the person who sinned against me (NOT to other people in gossip!) and tell them their sin (gently, humbly, respectfully, lovingly and only after I have repented of any sin in my life).  If they do not listen, I am to take another believer with me as a witness and confront them gently, respectfully and lovingly – and if they will not listen to two people, the Bible says they are to go before the church and if they will not repent, they are to be shunned.  I don’t know many churches that actually practice church discipline anymore.  But, we can do the first few steps.  Unfortunately, most believers today think it isn’t “nice” or isn’t “Christlike” to confront people about sin.  NOT SO!  Love DOES confront sin.  Love does not allow sin to go on and on wounding everyone.  Yes, it is hard!  Yes, it is uncomfortable.  But it is our responsibility to confront sin AFTER we have confronted and repented of ALL sin in our own life first!

WASN’T JESUS “NICE”?

We tend to think that Jesus was a “nice” pushover and a wimp.  We do that because He allowed Himself to be tortured and crucified for us – which actually was an act of great strength, sacrifice and submission to God and not at all the act of a coward, pushover or wimp.  But look at the way He handled Himself with those who opposed God.  He was not “nice.”  He was to the point.  He was strong.  He was love.  He had endless courage.  He stood up for holiness.  He threw tables over in the temple to defend His Father’s house as a house of prayer.  He rebuked people when they were sinning and arrogant about it.  He rebuked self-righteousness and hypocrisy.  He was not “nice” and trying to make everyone like Him at all costs.  He didn’t shrink back from speaking the truth.  He wasn’t afraid to say what He believed and He didn’t say “yes” when he wanted to say “no.”  He never sinned in His anger.  But He did have anger.  He did confront when necessary.  He did not cower from standing for the truth and what was right.

And look at how He will come in the clouds when He returns as the triumphant King of kings and Lord of lords.  He will be on a white horse with a sword coming from His mouth and He will kill all of His enemies with one Word from His mouth.

He is a holy God.  He is just.  He is righteous.  He is ALL-POWERFUL.  He is sovereign.  He does not tolerate sin.  And at the same time, He is love.  He is mercy and grace.  What an incredible combination of strength, power and love.

Being “nice” is really not part of being Christlike.  It is culturally acceptable.  But you can be “nice” to someone as you seethe with resentment.  You can be “nice” as you stew about how much you hate them or hate what you are doing for them.  Being nice does not = being godly.  And I don’t believe that being “nice” has anything to do with what Christ has commanded us to do. The two greatest commandments are to love God with all our hearts, minds, souls and strength and we are to love others with God’s love. I John 4 says we cannot hate people and love God. And Jesus says in John 14:22-24 that anyone who loves Him will obey Him – in everything.

HOW TO SAY “NO.”

If someone is using guilt on you, THE WORST thing you can do is give the REASONS WHY you can’t do something.  They will almost always shoot down any reason and explain why that is not valid.  If you truly don’t want to do something, simply say, “I’m so sorry, I can’t.” And when they ask why, you just continue to say, “I can’t.”  Eventually, they will relent!

But it is also ok to just say

  • No, thanks!
  • I am not going to be able to do that.
  • Let me check with my husband first (if it is someone else asking for your time, money or efforts).

Remember – don’t get into a long drawn out debate or discussion with a controlling, emotional manipulator!  A brief answer of “no” that is pleasant and polite will suffice.  Then the other person is responsible for his/her reaction and emotions.

You cannot MAKE them be angry.  They choose to be angry or to hang on to anger.  That is their choice.  You do what is right in God’s eyes, and let other people handle their emotions.  Apologize if/when you sin against others, and try to live in peace.  But you are not responsible to make other people not angry or make them happy.  That is their own responsibility!

FREEDOM FROM PEOPLE-PLEASING

To be free from this idol.  I have to rip the idol out by the roots and be sure I am building only on the foundation of Christ and His Word.  I must build my life on His truth alone.  I completely repent of every sin.  I must face every fear and combat it with God’s truth, discarding all the lies.  I have to study God’s BIGNESS and sovereignty.  I must study how small I truly am.  I must see His power and my weakness.  He must become MORE and I must become less.  I totally yield my heart to His.  I give up my will for His.  I die to myself.  I live for Him as a living sacrifice every day.  I decide to fear God much, much more than I fear any person.  I decide to desire God’s approval WAY above any human’s approval.  And I decide to obey God’s Word and to abide in Him daily and feast on His Word and ask Him to fill me with His power to be the woman, wife and mother He desires me to be.

 

There is so much reason for HOPE!  Jesus is able to deliver us from the prison of being a people pleaser, or from being a martyr, or from being filled with worldly sorrow and guilt – from any sin.  And He is able to give us a life of joy, love, peace, patience and all the abundant spiritual riches of heaven!

53 thoughts on “The Snare of People-Pleasing

  1. Thank you SO much! This blog was written and directed to me. Now I know the truth & now I need to apply it. I never knew being a people-pleaser was a sin. Reading the list from Vickie was convicting & hurtful. Thanks for giving ways of how NOT to be a person pleaser & how to say NO! I always thought I made people angry.

  2. Sadly, I grew up being that type of person. Many times I would find myself crying because the “real me” wanted to come out so badly!! But I was afraid the people around me would be disappointed in me. Over the past few years, I’ve been trying to change this little by little. It’s hard to let go of it and face possible rejection when acceptance means so much………..

    1. Sarah, It is hard! That is why I think the only way to do it is from a position of being totally accepted by Jesus through His death for you.

      Then you can desire His approval and be unshaken when people don’t accept us. We can want unity with others and love and acceptance. But if they are unable or unwilling to give us what we want and need, we are safe and secure in Christ. He meets our every need! 🙂

      Sent from my iPhone

    2. I can really relate- Overcoming this people-playing snare just isn’t an overnight fix, and the real me inside is so scared of rejection. This has severely impacted my prayer life, my “alone time” with God… My husband loves God but he doesn’t have a very active devotional life, and I’m the total opposite- religious OCD just about (a works-based, compulsive, people-pleasing attitude toward God to control Him so He’ll love me and not reject me basically), and I really can only overcome this by spending lots of real, quality time with God to get in touch with my real heart, often crying my eyes out and releasing a lot of past hurts and allowing Abba to just love me. My sweet hubby gets frustrated that I am so fear-based both toward him and toward God, yet he wants SO MUCH of my time, like ALL my waking hours… I’m people-pleasing toward him because I hear his voice louder than my own and louder than God’s, so my relationships with myself and with God suffer… I make my husband the problem, when the reality is that the issues are in ME. I know God is at work and that everything will get better (and it already has- HUGELY- thanks in part to the very helpful blogs about wifely submission out there). I just wanted to get that off my chest and ask for prayer. Know that I am praying for the growing, hurting, changing, God-seeking wives out there. God bless you all.

      1. HL,

        This post barely scratches the surface of people pleasing. It could easily be a whole book!

        It is going to take some time as God exposes each layer of sin and idolatry to see it and repent and make your whole goal just pleasing Christ. Then you will get disappointed in someone and realize that there are more layers to tear out and repent of and to refocus on Christ.

        Lord,
        I pray for this precious wife, that You might convict her of every sin, that she might have godly sorrow and true repentance and that You might empower her to die to self and live as a living sacrifice to You. Holding nothing back. Help her to see her idols. Help her to grieve over them as You do. Cleanse her of her sin and fill her with Your Spirit. Help her realize she can do NOTHING good on her own. The only good things in her life will be 100% Christ’s doing. Help her see how small, weak, Impotent and powerless she is and how omnipotent, mighty, sovereign and holy You are.

        Let her worship you alone and give herself fully to You in total submission, desiring You far above all else in this life.

        In the Name and power of Christ,
        Amen!

        Thank you for praying for our sisters in Christ! God is working mightily in so many lives!!!

  3. Brandie,

    I also backed WAY, WAY away from friends and extended family as I learned to respect my husband more, leave others and cleave to him. It has actually resulted in a lot more peace! And more intimacy for my husband and me. I do have a few very strong, godly friends. But I keep my main focus on my husband and children. To me, it is much healthier that way!!!!

    Thanks for the insightful comments – I do think this is sometimes an important, and painful, step in this process. And thank you for praying for the other women who are on this journey together! We ALL need it! 🙂

  4. My ex-wife concluded from some counseling and book reading that she was a people pleaser. Her chosen remedy was to stop any pretense of seeking to please me in particular. Never quite understood that. Especially since the correct remedy would be to focus on pleasing God, and that would necessarily have yielded fruit that would have pleased me too.

    1. That makes me so sad! Yes – the proper remedy would be to seek God first and His will above everything and desire to please Him. Seeking to obey, honor and please God leads to healthy marriages. You are in my prayers!

  5. Wow! I always knew I was a people pleaser but to see that list, I am shocked and mad at myself for allowing my people pleasing to get to this degree. I am all 52! Thank you for the advice and I am going to start the long road of trying to get out of this trap I have placed myself in…

  6. This is a great blog! By the way the church I go to does practice Biblical church discipline by bringing people before the church. You should check it out!

    http://www.caicc.net

    Or if you don’t live close to Los Angeles check out our fellowship of churches website to find one near you. They all believe in obeying the Bible and Biblical church discipline

  7. Wow this is good stuff. Thank you, I didn’t realize I was a people pleaser until you suggested I read this post. I fit a lot of what was written. My husband is always telling me to please God and him not others. I’ve been put down so much in the past ( as a child, at school, and my first husband who was not a religious man and others ) that I started saying and doing things that ” pleased” others. My husband is so right, it only matters what God and he thinks. If I concentrate on pleasing them, then nothing else matters ! I will do my best to work on that, putting God and Rick’s opinions first. If I’m right withGod and being submissive to Rick than that’s most important. Thank you for having me look at this post 🙂

    1. Michelle,

      You are very welcome! The other posts that same week 11-3>11-7 are about other forms of control that women often use when they are not close to God. Could be helpful in dealing with your mother or other people.

      Much love to you!!!!

      1. Really like the posts. My mom is also a people pleaser. So with God, my husband and your posts as helps and guides I will be able to move forward without all the worries and concerns I’ve always had. Thank you for replying, I can tell you really care about your bloggers and are a God fearing woman ! You’ve been a blessing. Luv, Michelle
        Ps I’ve been in skirts the past 3 days and will continue 🙂

  8. This is hammering home something that I already recognise in myself. it has helped me come up with practical steps I can take to overhaul this part of my life. Thank you

  9. This post is amazing. Thank you so much for writing this. Can you send me a comment back with some bible verses that might help me with this subject? Thanks so much!

  10. I have been learning about people-pleasing because my husband is one. It is ruining our marriage. He is so concerned about pleasing others, that he puts everyone ahead of me and our marriage.

    I have learned that it is a true addiction – just like drugs, alcohol, shopping, TV, gambling, etc.
    It is a way to hide from one’s insecurities. Like April said, it gives a false-pride. The person focuses so much on being nice and feeling proud of themselves for that, but they avoid the things that make them feel insecure in the first place.
    Notice that avoidance is the common theme of all addictions. It is a way of avoiding one’s problems and weaknesses.

    Since, you can’t change what you don’t acknowledge, nothing changes. Therefore, it becomes a vicious cycle. But, all the while, the people-pleaser person is convinced that they are acting in “saintly” ways. Therefore, it contributes to arrogance, yet it is caused from insecurities. Ironic, huh?

    It is destructive to a marriage. I am speaking from the “other” side. I’m not a people pleaser, and I always feel like I’m in FIFTH place (not second, third, or even fourth) because I’m married to one.

    I am dealing with it MUCH better since I decided to depend more on Jesus instead of my husband. However, it causes a LOT of distance between my husband and I. He’s so busy “saving the world” that I just focus my time on other things.

    Just wanted to share my two cents from the “other side”.

    1. Eternally Learning,
      You explained this so very well. Yep. There are many ironies. And exactly – it is an addiction to approval of others as our source of worth. If others like me and aren’t mad at me, I am “good.” I can absolutely convince myself that what I am doing is loving and saintly – and all the while my motives are actually very sinful.

      I appreciate your perspective as the spouse of a people pleaser. It would be very frustrating – I can certainly imagine. You may be able to share what you want – but ultimately, only God can open our eyes and convict us of sin.

      Praying for you both and for God’s greatest glory! 🙂

  11. April, this is really good. God sure gifted you with great communication skills. You are always very succinct and clear on your points. Thank you. This is a helpful one for me to bookmark.

    Praying for you today.

    xx Julie

  12. Firewife,
    What do you ask God for? What do you want from God?

    Are you able to fully trust Him and rest in His love and experience His peace and joy?

  13. Amazing blog!!! I love truth! It is rare to find blogs that do not compromise the truth and what is truly required by God. I am so blessed to be in a true uncompromising church that confronts sin in love and in the ways of God! When my sins were confronted, it led me to true brokenness and repentance for the first time ever and I have never been the same! True love saves you from yourself and exposes dangerous ways within us that will hinder our walk with God and hurt others. Thanks for expounding on this people-pleasing way that can lead to sooo many ugly, evil sins, if not dealt with. It can cause one to be a professional deceiver and become lost with who they really are! Trust me, I know. But there is AMAZING hope in Jesus and forgiveness!!
    God bless!

  14. I searched something about being nice or being Christlike because I have a hard time finding the balance. I’m a people pleaser and an over giver. I am guility of so many of these items on the list. Time to do some evaluating on how to fix this. Great post! Thank you!

    1. Ashley,
      It is so easy to fall into these ways of thinking! Lots of times, we learned them as children. It can be difficult and painful to unlearn and to replace these ideas with the truth of God, but thankfully by His Spirit’s power He can give us new hearts, new minds and new spirits.

      Praying for wisdom for you! 🙂

  15. Dear Peaceful Wife

    Wanted to THANK YOU for all of your hard work and dedication in helping so many and getting the Truth out there – again to help and teach so many. I haven’t been able to do it without you!!!

    1. Tricia,

      I think it is SO cool that God lets me share His treasures. What an honor to get to walk this road with you, my dear sister. I pray that God might continue His good work in you. I am so glad this is a blessing. I long to see you live in the power, freedom, and love of Christ each moment. 🙂

      Much love!

  16. I have always been aware that i was a people pleaser. I knew it made me uncomfortable many times, but i did not know how to break the cycle. I would give in to my mothers desires and wishes even when i dont want to..due to the inconveniece it would cost me and my family.. then when i didnt give in to her wishes, i felt guilty, i felt like she would hold it againt me or even rant about it behind my back.

    Up to now i still dont kow how to respont to or feel about those rants Im sure she does to my siblings and father. Also it seems there is a thin line between self denial/ doing a favor for others and pleasing people. Please elaborate on this if you can. Then i find I am more raw at home with my child and husband, not caring hardly how they think and feel regarding my attitude and behaviour towards them sometimes. then at other times, I am afraid to speak up and say how i feel to my husband cause he too is a people pleaser and would do what i ask but with deep resentment in his heart..which he holds on to for days.

    Satan causes the same issues in every part of the world…as i know you are from the USA and I am from the Belize. A lot of those issues you brought up as characteristics of a people pleaser i.. have them, and i feel so lost some days. I think that characteristic were inhereted some what cause my dad is also a people pleaser. Some days i dont want to do get into the word, i have no desire for it. Yet i know its important.

    I have nver realize my husband has been my idol, until i read your post about that. it was a shock to realiz how much satan has bewitched me to belive a lie for so long in my 7 years of marriage. Its as if I am learning al over again what a godly marriage should be like. I wish I knew this info from a child growing up, how much sorrow it would have saved me during my marriage..but its not too late. Dieing to self really is one of the hardest most difficult battles we would ever have to fight.

    Please pray for me that i set my eyes on Christ and love to be in his presence. I want to be filled with Hs Spirit and find joy and peace in him alone, caz chasing after my idol husband is like chasing after the wind.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: