Do you worry about what other people think of you? Do you fear people’s reactions to your decisions? Do you often find yourself feeling guilty when you can’t be there for someone?
If you identify with those feelings, you are not alone. Many people struggle with people-pleasing. It comes subtly and twists the best of intentions. Getting rid of people-pleasing has been a huge lesson in my life, I check my motives and heart daily to make sure I’m living for the approval of God rather than the approval of other people.
The Lord ministered to me in this area through a passage of scripture I’d read many times before. This time, I read it with a set of fresh eyes, able to see truths I hadn’t noticed before.
In 2 Kings 5:1-6 we find the wealthy army commander, Naaman, who was a leper seeking healing. Through a series of events, Naaman sought the prophet Elisha to find healing. Arriving at Elisha’s house, he was met by Elisha’s servant who delivered instructions on how to receive healing. The servant told Naaman to go wash in the Jordan seven times to be clean. Naaman was furious Elisha didn’t come to him directly and wave his hand over him to heal him. But his servants convinced him to give the advice a try. Naaman went away furious but still dipped in the Jordan as instructed, emerging with skin like a child, completely healed. Naaman came back to the prophet Elisha declaring there was no other God but in Israel and offering a generous gift to Elisha, but Elisha refused the gift.
In this passage of scripture I noted 5 significant aspects revealing Elisha as a God-pleaser rather than a people-pleaser:
- Elisha didn’t feel the need to be the one to deliver the message.
Elisha sent his servant to tell Naaman the instructions on healing. Too often times, we feel the need to be the hero of people’s stories. We want to be the ones to always show up and come to the rescue. Elisha raised up another leader and delegated the work of the ministry to that leader. I don’t know what line of work you are in, but in ministry, I can’t possibly be there for everyone. I’ve tried and exhausted myself. Especially as my church grows, I need to trust the leaders we’ve put in place to help shepherd the flock and help carry the load – none of us can do it alone.
Many times we pray to God for help and guess how he answers that prayer? He sends someone in our life to help us, but often we refuse the help they offer. In humility, we need to accept people in our lives God brought to help carry our load.
2. Elisha didn’t give an explanation.
I used to send long explanations for why I couldn’t be somewhere. I wanted to say yes to every birthday party, bridal and baby shower, every volunteer opportunity, every playdate. If I couldn’t make it, in addition to a long explanation, I carried around backpack of guilt. I should have been there for that person. They really needed me. My husband helped me realize I don’t need to give an explanation for everything, nor do I need to feel guilty or apologize for prioritizing my family and times of rest.
3. Elisha wasn’t afraid of Naaman’s response.
Naaman got angry and enraged because Elisha’s method disappointed him. Well, here is a truth which never gets old: We can’t please everyone. We will disappoint people. We won’t always do things the way others want us to. Sometimes, people will get angry or critical, but we can’t let the fear of people’s response stop us from obeying God’s direction. We have to continue to do what God calls us to do, regardless of how it might be perceived. Naaman was momentarily angry, but when he finally listened to the instructions, he received healing and made a declaration about the one true God. Sometimes people will react a certain way in the moment, but will later praise God for the results.
4. Elisha’s method brought glory to God and not to himself.
If Elisha were to lay his hands on the man directly, Naaman could have went back and declared what a powerful prophet Elisha was, one with incredibly healing powers. Instead, Elisha’s instructions made it so Elisha wasn’t present when the healing took place. Naaman later said, “Now I know there is no other God in Israel.” This isn’t to say we can’t pray for people’s healing, or lay our hands on them directly (I do all the time), that’s not the point. The point is to examine our motives and our methods. Do our methods bring glory to God or ourselves?
5. Elisha didn’t want the credit.
Elisha’s refusal of the gift Naaman offered was significant, it meant he did want to take credit for the healing. He wanted it clear it was not him who performed a miracle, it was God. People-pleasing is a pride issue. It seeks credit from man rather than obedience to God.
One of the verses I now try to live by is Galatians 1:10 “Am I now seeking the approval of God or of man? If I were seeking the approval of man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
Living to please God (instead of people) keeps my pride in check and reminds me who I’m doing it for and who I’m pointing others to. It also strengthens my family, snuffs out fear, and gives me peace and endurance to run the race I’m called to. Burn-out isn’t an option – I’m in this for the long haul, enjoying the journey and keeping my eyes on Him. I hope you’ll join me in daily asking the powerful question from Galatians: Am I now seeking the approval of God or of man?