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Are You a People-Pleaser?

Are you friendly, courteous, kind and have a desire to please the people around you?  These attributes are usually thought of as being positive.  But what may place them into negative territory is the motive of the person who has them.

Read the material below to determine how you stack up in terms of people-pleasing.

(People-pleasers are) “People who have a disproportionate and unhealthy need in their personality to give in to the wants, whims and desires of others around them, to the point of sacrificing their own wants or needs. People-pleasers, also known as pushovers or doormats, lack assertiveness skills and hold back from speaking up and saying what they really think or feel, and they hold back from asking for what they need or want because they’re worried someone will get upset about it.

“People-pleasing personality types find it virtually impossible to deny any or all requests made upon them even when doing so creates stress, chaos, financial burden, anxiety attacks, depression and even bankruptcy. The need for the approval and acceptance of others becomes debilitating for people-pleasers, where fear of saying no and the intense aversion to confrontations or angry reprisals causes people pleasers to give in time after time.”1

“People-pleasers have learned that it feels good to be liked by others, so they steer their words and actions in the direction that offers the most approval. On the surface, people-pleasers appear to be selfless, kind, and generous. However, beneath the surface, they are desperately insecure and believe that approval equals value. 

“They eventually find that trying to please people all the time is not only exhausting, it is impossible. Some people-pleasers may start manipulating relationships and situations in order to gain the rush of satisfaction associated with creating pleasant responses in others. So the term people-pleaser is actually a misnomer. People-pleasers strive to please everyone because they are trying to please themselves.”2 

People-Pleasing and Christian Love

Christian blog writer Diana Kerr asked some of her friends to define the difference between Christian love and people-pleasing.  Here are their responses: 

  1. “People-pleasing often stems from our own fears and insecurities. Christian love stems from sincere love of God and others. Christian love is caring for and meeting the needs of the other person. People-pleasing may be doing the same things, but the motivation is meeting an unmet core longing of your own.”
  2. “People-pleasing puts peace ahead of truth. Christian love honors God’s truth. People-pleasers avoid confrontation at all cost, but Christian love calls us to correct our brothers and sisters in Christ.”
  3. “People-pleasing drains you. Christian love can—through the Holy Spirit’s power—recharge you, even when it demands much of you. People-pleasing never satisfies self; someone always wants more or different, which drains your love tank. God-pleasing out of Christian love satisfies self because conscience knows it is the right thing to do no matter the cost. It refills your love tank, thus making you want to do even more.”
  4. “People-pleasing focuses more on others’ approval than on God’s. “People-pleasing focuses on us, a false sense of pride for ‘doing it all,’ fear of people not liking us (which we prioritize over obedience to what God actually asks of us), etc.” 3

      Earlier, I wrote a blog about co-dependency, as a reminder here is  the definition: “A codependent person is one who has let another person’s behavior affect him or her and who is obsessed with controlling that person’s behavior.4

People Pleasers Compared to Codependents 

(People-pleasers and co-dependents) have different primary motivations. While the people-pleaser is seeking love, the codependent strives for order.  Also, the people-pleaser sacrifices personal identity in order to gain approval, while the codependent sacrifices his/her own needs to care for others.  Finally, when it comes to marriage, the people-pleaser is not able to present an authentic self to the spouse; the codependents marriage suffers because of a high level of involvement “fixing” those out of the family.5

People-pleasers may be helped by coming out of denial and recognizing the problem and then acknowledging that it is a sin.  When a person’s guiding force in life is popularity, that individual is guilty of idolatry. 

“Seeking praise from fallible human beings rather than seeking God’s approval is a slippery slide into error. John 12:43 tells us that, even in Jesus’ day, some people believed His message but refused to follow Him because ‘they loved human praise more than praise from God.’ People-pleasing can lead to eternal separation from God when we allow it to dictate our choices.

“After we recognize our people-pleasing inclinations as sin and repent of them, we must find an alternate motivation. First Corinthians 10:31 tells us that our motive in everything should be to glorify God. When we develop an intimate relationship with Him through faith in Jesus, He becomes our focus and we switch from self-worshiping to God-worshiping.

Solutions to People Pleasing“Another important step in overcoming people-pleasing is to guard our hearts against covetousness. Envy feeds people-pleasing when we covet the approval or popularity of someone else. This is most evident in teenagers idolizing rock stars and athletes, but adults are guilty of this, too. People-pleasing based on envy is very prevalent, and most people  can find traces of it somewhere in their lives.

“People-pleasing prevents us from being all God has called us to be. It silences us when we should speak and threatens us when we do speak. An insidious form of people-pleasing in the church today is forecast in 2 Timothy 4:3: “”For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine  Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”6

For more examples, turn to Matthew 6:24, Luke 9:23,  Acts 5:29, 1 Corinthians 5:4. 6

Related Bible Passages

“Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe” (Proverbs 29:25).

“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people?  If I were trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10).

“... we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel.  We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts” (1 Thessalonians 2:4).

Read John 12:37-43 to see the Pharisees as people-pleasers.





4. Melody Beattie, Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself, Hazelden, Center City, MN, 1982, p. 36



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© 2023 by Don Umphrey


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