Good News for People-Pleasers Like Us

by May 17, 2017

Good News for People-Pleasers Like Us

by May 17, 2017

Good News for People-Pleasers Like Us

by May 17, 2017

Do you struggle with peer pressure? I didn’t think I did until a week ago. I’m 43 years old. I’ve figured out who I am, and who I’m not, and I’m pretty content with that. I don’t really feel the need to prove myself to anyone. I don’t feel the need to have anyone’s approval. At least, that’s what I thought.

Then I took a bunch of Harbor leaders to a ministry conference in Reno. We had a free afternoon, so we rented some big 4-seat ATV’s and headed up into the Sierra Nevada’s. At the end of our thrilling adventure we found ourselves on the top of a huge hill. The other side of the hill had tracks going down, but it looked more like a cliff than a hill. It was straight down. I asked the guys in the other ATV if they’d tackled it yet. “Totally! It was a blast! You should do it!” I said, “But it’s suicide! We’ll die!” They weren’t hearing it. “You can do it! Do it! Do it! Do it!”

I looked around at the guys in our car, and I said, “Are we doing this?” The other three guys looked at each other and said, “We’re doing this.” And so we did it. I nudged the ATV over the edge, and followed the diagonal track down the steep hill. Then gravity took control. Before we knew it we started flipping over. Our ATV rolled violently four times down the cliff and landed in a tree. Miraculously, nobody was hurt.

The other ATV rolled around to the bottom of the cliff. The guys looked up and said, “Oooh. Actually, we went down another hill.” I was peer-pressured by a bunch of knuckleheads!

Why? Because I struggle with fear of man. I didn’t know it before then, but I feel the need for people to approve of me. I want them to think highly of me. I know Jesus has declared me righteous, but I still want other people to declare me righteous as well. I wanted those guys to watch me take that hill and say, “Right on! That was so righteous, bro!”

And I’m not alone. There’s a counselor in Philadelphia named Ed Welch who says nearly every person he counsels is struggling to some degree with the fear of man. We go to people to give us what only God can: approval, love, and affection. People can’t deliver those things consistently, so we start to fear them.

In his excellent book When People Are Big and God is Small, Ed says there are three different fears we have:

Fear #1: People will see me.

We want people to accept us and approve us and love us, but we know how UGLY we really are deep down, and we know people won’t like us if they see it. So we try to hide. We try to cover up.

That’s what Adam and Eve did in the garden. After they ate the fruit, it says … “The eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths” (Gen 3:7). As a result of their sin, they were suddenly ashamed. They didn’t want anyone to see them, so they started working to cover themselves up.

And we do the same thing. We use busy schedules, social-media posts, workouts, job titles, even ministry to cover up the ugliness we know is there down deep. We know that people won’t approve of us if they see it, so we hide behind all these other things.

Fear #2: People will reject me.

They won’t like me. They’ll ignore me. They’ll un-friend me. They won’t invite me out to lunch with the rest of the office. They won’t invite me to the party, with the rest of our friends.

That’s why Barnabas bailed on his Gentile friends in Antioch in order to make sure his Jewish friends from Jerusalem didn’t turn their backs on him. His nickname was Son of Encouragement because he was always the guy giving big hugs to everyone at the front door of the church. But people who give a lot of encouragement usually need a lot of encouragement, so he decided he needed to abandon his Gentile friends so he wouldn’t be abandoned by his Jewish friends.

How often do we do that? How much do our eyes light up when we’re around people who have money, or influence, or good looks, or mad skills, or 2000 followers? And how much do we ignore the people who don’t? We all want to connect with powerful people, respected people, and beautiful people. We’re looking for their approval and blessing, and we’re scared to death we won’t get it.

Fear #3: People will hurt me.

That’s the fear Peter struggled with his entire life. Remember the night before Jesus was crucified? Jesus said one of the disciples was going to betray him, and Peter stuck out his chest and said, “Not me, Jesus! Even if I have to die with you, I’ll never deny you!” And then what happened?

Jesus was arrested on a capital offense, and Peter was hanging around outside the police station while Jesus was being interrogated. Peter could have been inside, like John was, but that was way too risky. He stayed outside. Someone outside the police station looked at him and said, “Hey, didn’t I see you hanging out with Jesus?” Peter said, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” A bald-faced lie. He completely denied Jesus.

We might be tempted to say, “Well, give the guy a break. If your buddy was up for the death penalty and the police started asking you questions, you’d get cold feet too.” Except it wasn’t the police asking Peter questions. It was a little girl. He lied to a little girl because he was so terrified of being attacked.

Maybe you experience the same fear. You’re terrified that your boss, parents, spouse, or friends might hurt you. Maybe not physically, but emotionally. Not with their fists, but with their words. So you lie, manipulate, or just shade the truth to avoid any possibility of attack.

[perfectpullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Who cares what people see in you? God’s seen it all, and he still loves you. Christ died to take away your ugliness and rose from the dead to give you his beauty.[/perfectpullquote]Those are the kinds of fears we all face. So how can we overcome them? By remembering that God sees us perfectly and still loves us. Paul says in Romans 5:8, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Even when you were a dog-ugly sinner, God saw you, and he gave his grace to you. So who cares what people see in you? God’s seen it all, and he still loves you. Christ died to take away your ugliness and rose from the dead to give you his beauty.

You’ve been fully accepted by God, and that doesn’t depend on anything you’ve done, or anything you can do. It will never change. As it says in Hebrews 13:5, “He has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?'” What can man do to me? Reject me? Attack me? Who cares? The Lord is my helper. He’ll never leave me or forsake me. He’ll protect me. He won’t allow anything to happen to me that he doesn’t want.

That’s good news for people-pleasers like me.