Thursday, May 5, 2011

Pleasing One

 I didn't know English classes were supposed to be convicting. I thought they were supposed to be interesting moments where I dissolved into a novel to understand and join with characters to walk with them through plights and their struggles. 

Apparently God didn't get the memo I wasn't in English class to learn anything about myself. Hello?! 

The book we are reading this last week of classes is Black Water by Joyce Carol Oates. To keep a VERY long story short, it is about a people pleasing woman who gets in the car with an intoxicated Ted Kennedy and is killed in a car accident that landed both the then-living senator and the woman in a river. It is based on the true story of Mary Jo Kopechne and Senator Kennedy. If you haven't looked up the story on the internet or you haven't read the book, you should. *disclaimer: book is for mature audiences only*Mr. Kennedy escapes the car and leaves the woman, not going for help immediately, and Mary Jo dies two hours after the car landed in the water. The senator receives only a minor sentence. It is a thrilling novel, really. 

And trust me, that was a short version. 

But the main character, name-change to Kelly, is a very insecure people pleasing woman who wants to please her father, her friends, her peers, and ultimately the man who was driving the car that led to her death. My professor began to break down "people pleasing" as a whole and point out the selfishness of this act. 

At first I was defensive of the people pleaser. Why? Because I tend to be that person. I want people to be happy. I want to fit in. I was the peace maker in the house as we grew up. I didn't like fighting with my sister and I sought to explain and try to keep peace between my mom and sister when they had confrontation or miscommunication. I don't like fights. I've had one MAJOR fight since I was a teenager and all other disagreements have been minor in comparison. 

My professor talked about how those who seek to make a situation peaceful and who are good at pleasing everyone are selfish. In pleasing everyone you become two-faced and no one gets YOU and who YOU are. In addition this, something always dies: either literal or figurative. You, as the people pleaser, will lose yourself and you will have no idea who you are. Rather than face confrontation, make decisions you believe are right to stick to them, and deal with people of who disagree you cower and try to please them. You lose who you are, you have nothing concrete to believe in, and no one is blessed by the person that God is making you to be.  


I've always thought that my being a peacemaker and a people pleaser wasn't a completely bad thing. I thought that people being happy with me was GOOD. But this kicked me. She was right. So often I want to please someone and not put anyone out. I will become the "martyr" to make someone happy. I will sacrifice my ideas, my goals, even sometimes my beliefs to please people. 

This isn't just difficult for me as it makes me seem "wishy-washy" or "two-faced" is sin. 

To please everyone means that you aren't going to please God. You will lose yourself in order to make peace. I started being convicted of this in pre-marital counseling, and this class just compounded it. So often I will give in to a fight just to make peace. Conflict is not always bad--whether in marriage or life. If you believe it enough to stand up and fight for it, then do so.

It's not about what people think. It's about what GOD thinks.  

Kyle and I were talking about the conviction I felt while he drank a smoothie at Mc-D's. He agreed that some areas of that idea were things that he too struggled to master. We are praying through this: we don't want an attitude of "it's my idea and I'm going to fight you on it so 'screw you'". That is NOT the heart of God. We want to be firm in our beliefs while presenting them in a gentle but firm manner. We won't win people to the Lord with a bad attitude--but we don't win them by seeking to please them. 

In short, you can't get away from this:  "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" (Gal 1:10).  

Being firm in what you believe is about relationship with God as well. As you face life and compare it against the truths of His Word He will show you what is true to believe. Be firm in your beliefs, while praying for a tender heart to be moved as he uses others to teach you. You can't be closed to wisdom from others, but you must be discerning...and quite honestly, you have to be willing to be wrong sometimes. It's risky.

In agreeing with people it appears as if I will never be wrong. But it backfires: people think I am right because I "agree" with them, when in my heart I don't. If I don't voice disagreement of some kind then I am presenting a facade of agreement to keep peace and avoid debate. 

So next time we are talking and I disagree with you openly and firmly, believe me, it goes against my nature. 

I feel as if this is muddled, but I hope it makes sense. It was one of the most convicting and FREEING convictions I have had in a long time. 

Pleasing One,


Jennifer said...

Ouch is right! I, too, am convicted as I read this. When I try to please everyone, what I'm basically doing is pointing them back to me. They leave a conversation with me thinking, "I just love being with Jennifer! She's so easy to talk to, and she makes me feel so good about myself!" (Because I've basically spent the entire time affirming them, right?) But as a believer, shouldn't it be my goal and my desire to point people back to GOD rather than to MYSELF? And that happens when you let people know how their thoughts differ from God's.

A friend once made a comment about the "Blessed are the peacemakers" passage that has stuck with me: We often think of peacemakers as people who don't rock the boat with other people. But a true peacemaker isn't focused on making peace with other people; a true peacemaker is focused on making peace between other people and GOD. And this only happens as those other people are reconciled to God through faith in Jesus Christ. Definitely gives it a whole new focus, doesn't it? ;)

I feel a little funny leaving a comment like this since you don't know me from Adam, but I have to tell you that I *love* your blog. I usually leave wondering what in the world God is going to accomplish through you. You really are a remarkable young woman, Sarah, with incredible depth of insight and a maturity in your faith that far exceeds your years!

Elisa Bate said...

Needed this! Thanks girl. :)

God's Gal Sarah said...

Jennifer, how nice to meet you! I honestly never thought about "blessed are the peacemakers" from the aspect of bringing peace between people and God. WOW. This whole lesson is freeing, but so difficult to carry out. THANK YOU for posting!! :)

Elisa, you need to come to Texas ;)

Becky Dietz said...

Good word, Sarah!

Elizabeth said...

I, too, am a people pleaser Sarah! As a newlywed, I am learning the balance that I need in my relationship with Bobby.

Rachel and Brennan said...

This was good, Sarah girl! :) I struggled with this HUGE for years...I'm 27 years old and finally getting some nerve. :) Love ya!