“Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.” Proverbs 29:25 (NIV)
At the height of the coronavirus pandemic, our adult son had to return suddenly to America from Australia, where he’d been living on a work visa. He moved into our home for a few months until he could make his next move in life.
We soon noticed his mail filling our mailbox. As a member of Gen Z, he became a potential client for nearly every credit card company in existence, many boasting of a zero-percent introductory interest rate and no annual fee. Stamped on the envelopes of these offers, in big, bold letters, was the phrase “NO APPROVAL NECESSARY.” Now, if only we could master this concept in our interactions with others!
Constantly seeking the approval of others — rather than resting in God’s approval — leads to people-pleasing. A few years ago, I realized that I didn’t just like to please people; I was also actually afraid of them. Maybe not afraid that they were going to harm me but afraid of what they might think of me. Or afraid of what they’d say about me. Or afraid of disappointing them. And so I fell straight in to the people-pleasing trap.
Proverbs 29:25 declares, “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.” You might know the definition of the word snare in English. It means “a trap,” much like one set to catch an animal. But the word as it is used in this verse carries a meaning that goes far beyond critter-catching.
In the original Hebrew, the word translated in English as snare is the word moqesh. Moqesh doesn’t only mean a trap for prey; it also conveys the concept of bait or a lure. It indicates an animal, object or person that is enticing, causing another to stop what they’re doing and insert themselves into a dangerous situation because of the “prize” in front of them. Before they know it, they’re caught!
Have you ever been enticed to say something you didn’t really mean to gain someone’s approval? Like give your coworker an insincere compliment to get on their good side? Or excessively rave about your friend’s new home decor that you don’t care for but that she’s obsessed with?
Maybe you’re tempted to say “yes” to requests when you’d much rather say “no” … just to avoid the discomfort of turning down the asker. Or maybe there’s a relationship in your life where your heartstrings are constantly tugged. And, worst of all, perhaps there’s someone with whom you have a dysfunctional relationship, and you dread making them sad or upset, so you constantly take the bait and give in just to garner their approval.
If you find yourself in any of the above situations, then you, my friend, have been caught in a moqesh.
So what are we to do to free ourselves from this snare? We wriggle free when we realize we do not constantly need the approval of others. We have already secured the greatest approval of all — that of being a child of the Most High God. He can grant us the courage to resist being caught in people-pleasing.
Second Timothy 1:7 reads, “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline” (NASB). Let’s tap into this spirit of bravery — harnessing its power to truly love people by being honest with them, and disciplining our minds to remember that we already have God’s approval, so we don’t need to seek approval from others.
Will you dare to begin making choices based on what God wants you to do rather than on someone else’s approval? We can learn to entrust our lives to God, giving responses that line up with His Word, carried out with confidence instead of timidity.
Father, please keep me from falling into the people-pleasing trap of constantly seeking the approval of others. Remind me how much I am already loved and cherished by You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
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Need more help to avoid the people-pleasing trap? Check out Karen Ehman’s newest book, When Making Others Happy Is Making You Miserable: How to Break the Pattern of People-Pleasing and Confidently Live Your Life.
To celebrate the release of Karen’s book When Making Others Happy Is Making You Miserable, she is hosting a Get-away Giveaway package over on her Instagram. Head to her account to enter the giveaway!
FOR DEEPER STUDY
1 Thessalonians 2:4, “For we speak as messengers approved by God to be entrusted with the Good News. Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts.” (NLT)
How does the image of a snare accurately apply to situations where you are tempted to please someone or gain their approval?
How can 1 Thessalonians 2:4 help you in the future when deciding if your behavior is due to people-pleasing? We’d love to hear from you! Share your thoughts in the comments.
© 2021 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.
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