We all care what other people think about us. We want to be liked, or at least appreciated. There is nothing wrong with wanting people to like us or caring about what others think as long as we keep it in proper perspective. We want people to like our status, our pictures, and our choices. Yet, we need to be careful that an over-obsession with the opinions of others doesn’t cripple us from being who God wants us to be. Sometimes when we do what God wants us to do people will be pleased as well (Mt. 22:37-40). However, sometimes when we do God’s will people will dislike us because of it (Jn. 6:32).
Are you someone that compromises your commitment to God in order to be on everyone else’s good side all the time? Would you be willing to shy away from your affiliation with the Lord if it meant that no one else would ever be upset with you or think of you differently? No Christian would admit to denying the Lord or placing man’s view above God’s, but we might do so unknowingly. Here are three signs that our desire to please men may have come at too high a price.
Everybody likes you
“Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.” (Lk. 6:26)
Christians should not go out and purposely make enemies, but we should still expect to have a few. Jesus told his disciples that they should be concerned that they are resembling the behavior of the false prophets when everyone spoke well of them. Society says that the man who never made an enemy is a great peacemaker, Jesus says such a person is like a false prophet: a coward.
If we live the life God wants us to live we will be persecuted (2 Tim. 3:12). I know there are some Christians who are being persecuted, and it has nothing to do with their relationship with God, but godly Christians will experience persecution. We may be toeing the line of being a pleaser of men if everyone is always in our corner.
Jesus was the most loving man to ever live and people did not like him all the time. Should we expect different treatment? Winston Churchill is credited with saying, “If you don’t have any enemies in life, you have never stood up for anything.” Don’t be obnoxious and make unnecessary enemies, but don’t shy away from speaking a controversial truth, correcting error lovingly, and opposing false ideologies. In these areas, we must be able to handle someone being upset with us. If we feel like we have to have the approval of everyone in the world, we will soon lose the approval of the only One that matters (Mt. 10:28).
You’re afraid to say what you believe
Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God. (John 12:42-43)
A lot of people believed in Jesus. The evidence that he is the Christ could not be denied by honest onlookers in the first century. However, not everyone was willing to confess their belief in Jesus. Some Jewish authorities cared so much for the approval of the Pharisees that they would not confess Jesus.
Jesus said anyone who refuses to acknowledge him before men will not be acknowledged before the Heavenly Father (Mt. 10:32-33). What a shame to be a closet disciple of Jesus and be dismissed at the judgment. It would be better to be put out of the synagogue than to be put out of the presence of God. Much like the authorities in Jesus’ day, some are more concerned with what others think than what God says.
Are you silent around your family about your faith because they believe false things but you would rather not offend? When you’re at work do you refrain from mentioning Jesus and what his word says about certain things so that you are not treated like an outcast? Every one of us must decide whether we will speak up for God or be ashamed of him. What we say shows what we believe and our silence is oftentimes evidence that we are not really convicted about our beliefs (2 Cor. 4:13).
While we need to use tact and wisdom when engaging others (and sometimes silence is necessary) it should never be motivated by fear of others or trying to please them at the expense of our loyalty to God. Even one of Jesus’ closest disciples, Peter, was tripped up with denying Jesus in order to not be looked down upon by the crowd (Lk. 22:54-62). We should examine ourselves and be on guard.
You’re obsessed with what others think
For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10)
The person who does not care at all what others think is usually a reckless and heartless individual filled with pride. Being concerned with the thoughts and feelings of others is not a bad thing. But, if we obsess over what men think it will stop us from being the servants of Christ that we should be. Paul could have remained a persecutor of the church, enjoying the praise of men and the prestige of Judaism, but he would have to stop being a servant of Christ. Paul stopped caring what the Jewish leaders thought of his decision and followed the one who died for him (Gal. 2:20).
The more we grow as Christians, the less popular our decisions will be with the world around us, even among some Christians. We must not obsess over the approval of people that will be standing in line at the judgment with us. Instead, focus on pleasing the one who will be doing the judging (Jn. 12:48).
If you find yourself constantly second-guessing your choices to do the right thing or say something godly because you think the world is watching, you have taken “people pleasing” to a dangerous extreme. We cannot control anyone’s opinions of us. We simply must shine our light and be content with that.
Fixing the problem
In a world where the cameras are constantly on us and everyone is so easily offended, how do we resist the desire to be people pleasers? We should focus on pleasing God above all else. If we please God, we will treat men right (Mic. 6:8). While doing things God’s way, people will not always appreciate it, but our conscience will be clear (Gal. 4:16). We should strive to love people and not just to be liked. Love is stronger than like. Like is superficial, love is genuine and will last long after the like phase is over. If people know we love them they will listen, whether they like us or not.
Lastly, accept that we cannot make everyone happy. Not everyone will like us all of the time and that has to be alright with us. Jesus was praised by the multitudes at times and then on other occasions, they wanted to stone him and cried out for his execution (Jn. 19:4-6). If we are going to be like Jesus, we must accept that we cannot please everyone and stay in a right relationship with God. Be kind, treat people right, but don’t make the opinions of others the lord of your life.