Do you struggle with people pleasing or wanting others to like you?
Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.
– Galatians 1:10
I was scrolling through my Instagram and had a thought, “I haven’t seen her on my Instagram in a while. I wonder why not?.” That thought prompted me to learn that a girl from an old small group unfollowed me at some point, which lead me down a rabbit hole of seeing who from that same group of past acquaintances chose to no longer be my friend on social media. My stomach turned in knots as I realized how many people had already unchecked that big, bright Follow button. I eventually stopped the detective work of destruction, but the situation lingered in my mind over the next few days. “Why don’t they like me?”
These are obviously people I’m not close to or doing life with, so why should I care? I wish I could honestly say that I never waste time or energy on thoughts of approval, but this kind of situation isn’t new. I’ve always been a massive people pleaser, and it’s always bothered me when people don’t like me, even when it’s someone I’m not close to at all. But the older I get and the more I learn about the theme of popularity in the Bible, the more I realize that we were never meant to win the approval of all people.
Take the author of Galatians, Paul, for example. I know it seems like I’ve been on a Paul kick lately, but there always seems to be a lesson to learn around one of the greatest authors of the New Testament! Not only was Paul disliked by the legalistic Pharisees and Jewish authority, but there were times when he also rubbed his fellow followers of Christ the wrong way. And when you read through Acts and the books He authored, you can see why! The guy was blunt, quick to call out hypocrisy, and when it came down to it, he wasn’t afraid to face conflict. But above all, Paul’s number one focus was spreading the Gospel and doing the will of God. His identity was rooted in Christ alone. In his mind, nothing else mattered, not even popularity or winning the approval of others. Did he love others and work to serve them the best he could? Yes. Did he let the desire to be liked consume him? Absolutely not.
What if we lived our lives with the reckless abandon to love and serve others without getting caught up in the desire to want them to approve of us? What if our goal was to stay connected to God - whose approval we already have - and allow the changing tides of popularity to wash in and out without taking us out to sea with it? Oh, what a life that would be! And sister, we can have that life because we have spiritual mentors in the Bible like Noah, Daniel, Paul, Mary, and most importantly, Jesus, who have already shown it can be done.
There are going to be people, heck, even fellow Christians who aren’t our fans. We’re going to lose followers on social media, people we consider friends will plan parties and events without us, people may disagree with our beliefs or actions, and we may feel the loneliness and stings of rejection when we find out we’re not liked by someone else. While it’s not ideal, it’s real life. But if our focus is on pleasing God, doing His will, and doing the best we can to love and serve others, we can learn to be content with the fact that we may not win the approval of everyone.
Challenge: Do you struggle with people-pleasing or wanting to be liked by everyone? Read these specific stories of Noah (Genesis 6:11-22), Daniel (Daniel 6), Paul (Acts 9:18-22), Mary (Luke 1:26-38), and Jesus (Mark 6:1-6) and how they turned their focus on doing God’s instead of worrying what people thought. Ask the Lord to fill you with the discernment, courage, and intention to seek Him above the approval of others.
Jantzen Jolly-Miller is a small business marketing professional and freelance faith writer who is on a mission to help women get real: real with themselves, with their business, and with their relationship with God and His church. In addition to being the lead content writer for Wheat and Honey Co., she blogs about personal takeaways from her life and faith walk to help women create positive change in their everyday routines at JantzenJollyMiller.com