Julie’s note: Laura Hodges Poole is a great writer and a fellow ACFW Scribes critique group member. She writes on a subject I know well, people pleasing. When I share my story I talk about how my rock-bottom moment came when I whittled an eggplant at 2am for a perfect Christmas penguin centerpiece no one asked for. God’s brought me a long way, and I believe Laura’s words will encourage you.
For years, I struggled with needing others’ approval to validate my work, my decisions, how my life reflected my beliefs, what clothes I wore, how I styled my hair, spent my time, and so on. When I analyzed this unhealthy trait, I realized how unscriptural it was. Yet, even as a Christian, what a difficult habit it was to break!
I wrestled with the idea of being a child of God, created in His image, saved by His grace—and lacking in the human realm. Even though I read my Bible and spent time in prayer, I still felt incomplete without a human stamp of approval. This “need to please” can only lead one direction—and it did.
But what my actions said were, “I’m not worthy.”
Believe it or not, some of this occurred at the hands of fellow Christians. People failed to honor their word, morphed into whomever or whatever necessary to get what they wanted from me, and last but not least, loved ones manipulated my feelings and goodwill for their own selfish gains.
If we’re not careful, the people from whom we seek approval can do more harm than good—not just emotionally but in our spiritual lives. Their opinions may not be healthy or accurate. Whether through implication or direct accusation, the control they seek, and our vulnerability to their validation, threatens our well being.
“…stand firm in the faith, be men of courage; be strong.” 1 Corinthians 16:13
One of the biggest challenges I encountered, in the quest to break this habit, is the notion Christians should be passive. You know—turn the other cheek. This is usually expressed by non-believers who misquote or misinterpret scripture because they’ve never really studied it. However, Christ’s admonition of turning the other cheek applies to revenge.
Jesus never instructed us to compromise principles or chuck away our viewpoint merely because someone challenges it. This is especially true, if they do so through manipulation of religious doctrine. Nor are we to stand idly by while our Savior is being trampled upon.
Jesus modeled standing firm in the faith. As a Christian, this is paramount in not validating decisions by someone else’s litmus test.
Liberation came when I began to stand firm—no matter how ridiculous my choices seem to others and regardless of the vacillation of principles displayed by others.
Standing firm, expecting people to honor their word, releasing yourself from human approval, and charting your own course doesn’t lessen your worth, Christian principles, or witness. If anything, it empowers you to become the person God ordained you to be.
Laura Hodges Poole is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in Reach Out Columbia, Evangel, Christian Home and School, Christian Devotions, WOW-Writing On the Word, Our Town, and the Independent Mail. She writes Christian romance novels and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). Among her non-fiction work is a book she co-wrote, Laurie’s Story: Discovering Joy in Adversity. Laura lives in South Carolina with her husband and they have two children. Her passion is encouraging others in their Christian walk. Visit her blog, “A Word of Encouragement,” at laurahodgespoole.blogspot.com