by Emily Conrad
This discussion about what we can learn from the book of Galatians in regards to people-pleasing started on Tuesday. You can read that post here.
The theme of that first post is nicely summed up by Galatians 1:10, which reads: Am I now trying to gain the approval of people, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ! (NET)
Why did Paul write this to the Galatians? He was encouraging them to resist (and not please) the people who were pressuring them to submit to the old law of circumcision. It sounds to me as though Paul wrote with urgency because the Galatians were starting to give in.
He writes, You foolish Galatians! Who has cast a spell on you? Before your eyes Jesus Christ was vividly portrayed as crucified! The only thing I want to learn from you is this: Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? Although you began with the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by human effort? Galatians 3:1-3, NET
Did you catch that? Paul moved from people-pleasing to another closely-related area: perfectionism.
I know I, for one, can tend toward perfectionism all on my own, but we’re also often encouraged that direction by the fact that people see and judge our actions (rather than our hearts). When we’re stuck in this trap, we run ourselves ragged trying to live up to some imagined ideal that God never called us to because other people expect it of us.
These people are easier to see with human eyes than the risen Jesus. The criticisms of how we live are easier to hear than the still small voice of our Savior—especially when we haven’t been spending adequate time with him. So, we set about pleasing the people by saying yes to everything at church. We take failure hard. We vow to try harder or do better next time.
This is foolish because no matter how hard we try, we’re always wanting. Sure, maybe we do manage to please a few people some of the time, but that was never supposed to be the point of our lives. We were created by God and for God, but we’ll never satisfy Him by our efforts.
The only way to peace with God is through faith, as Paul writes in 2:16: yet we know that no one is justified by the works of the law but by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by the faithfulness of Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified. (NET)
I often fail to look at perfectionism and people-pleasing as the traps they are, so it hits me when Paul writes: For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not be subject again to the yoke of slavery.
People-pleasing and perfectionism are slavery, and recognizing them as such will help us to choose better in the future. Christ died so we could be free.
Instead of slavery, we’re invited into a relationship with the Creator. Knowing Him and being known by Him is so vital. It’s the only way we can live led by the Spirit, reaping “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22, NET)
Life and faith are not about making “a good showing of external matters.” (from 6:12, NET)
Life and faith are about our hearts, which must be loyal to Christ above all else.
So forget about everyone else and all their opinions. Embrace Jesus.
PS Want more reading on people-pleasing, perfectionism, and how our relationship with Jesus can save us? Check out the Chosen and Approved series that just wrapped up earlier this month! For links to all the posts, click here.
PPS Since all the lovely photos in the main body of this post (but not the Chosen and Approved graphic) were from the same photographer, I wanted to let you know. You can check out Kortni Williams’ work here.