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