“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.”
Galatians 1:10 (NIV)
Hello, my name is Lysa, and I struggle with people-pleasing.
For years I’ve had to face the reality of being a “yes” woman even when I didn’t have the capacity or honestly the desire to do what others were asking of me. And if I’m really honest, it often wasn’t purely out of love for people that I would stretch myself way too thin. It was because I couldn’t figure out how to manage the fear of what disappointing them would cost me.
And this mindset became a very apparent obstacle as I tried to draw healthy boundaries in my relationships.
You see, this people-pleasing struggle made me the perfect candidate to resist boundary-setting and to view any kind of boundaries as unkind. But the problem is that if we live allowing other people’s opinions to define who we are, we will be desperate to try and control people’s perceptions of us. We will spend our lives managing opinions to ensure they're always favorable toward us so we can feel good about ourselves.
But think about the tragic reality of this … Being too concerned with gaining the approval of others can give us a heart divided with God. Ouch.
Our key verse today points out this issue: “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” (Galatians 1:10).
It’s impossible to please all the people all the time. We know this. Until we forget — especially with people whose opinions affect us. So when we disappoint people, think differently than they do, don’t do everything they think we should do, or try to draw boundaries they don’t agree with, then others might think poorly of us. And if they think poorly of us, we fear it will be impossible to feel good about ourselves.
I think this hits at my core fear around setting boundaries. If I set a boundary, someone will no longer see me as I want them to see me. They will no longer know me as I want them to know me. They will no longer believe the best about me, and there’s something inside of me that really wants them to believe the best about me.
But here’s what I’ve failed to realize until now: All people have limits — physically, financially, relationally, emotionally. We are all limited. Only God is limitless. People-pleasing will tell you that drawing boundaries means you’ve failed. But I think drawing boundaries means you’ve had the beautiful, biblical revelation that only God can meet everyone’s needs. (Philippians 4:19)
Do I want to be loved by others? Of course I do.
Do I want to fear another person’s love for me is based on me always making them happy? Absolutely not.
Love should be what draws us together, not what tears us apart. And I’ve seen how much boundaries help with this in my own life.
As you let all these words sit with you, I want to leave you with these simple words I first wrote in my journal years ago: “God’s love isn’t based on me. It’s simply placed on me. And it’s the place from which I should live … loved.”
Live loved today, friend.
Jesus, thank You for being such a safe place for me to return to when I’m struggling with my identity. When I’m tempted to look to others for validation and acceptance, please remind me to look up at You instead. I pray the Holy Spirit will give me eyes to take inventory of my own life and the understandable limitations of my capacity, and I pray for wisdom as I personally consider any potential changes I need to implement. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
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Has the fear of letting other people down impacted necessary boundaries you've tried setting? To overcome the frustrating cycle of ineffective boundary-setting by applying practical strategies to help you communicate, keep and implement healthier patterns, sign up to get Lysa’s free resource “I Can’t Keep Doing This: 5 Reasons Your Boundaries Aren’t Working.” Sign up now!
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FOR DEEPER STUDY
Proverbs 29:25, “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe.” (ESV)
When you’re tempted to avoid setting boundaries because of the fear of what the other person will think, remember this warning: Don’t fall into the trap set by other people's opinions. Take some time today to write down all the reasons it is safe to trust the Lord. Then share some of them with us in the comments!
© 2022 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.
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