In the 1988 comedy film Coming To America, Prince Akeem, son of a wealthy king in a fictitious African country, learns that he will soon marry a beautiful princess. His excitement quickly wanes when he discovers that his bride-to-be, a young woman raised from birth to complement him perfectly, has no mind of her own. When he inquires about her personal likes and dislikes, she repeats the same answer every time.
"What kind of food do you like?" Akeem asks.
"Whatever kind of food you like," she answers, with a bow.
He tries again. "What kind of music do you like?"
"Whatever kind of music you like," she says again, with a bow.
And on and on their discussion goes. Whenever he attempts to discover what she likes, she repeats, "Whatever ________ you like." Oh, and she always follows her answer with a bow.
This conversation gets old really quick. Akeem begs his parents to allow him to venture to the United States before his wedding. He doesn't tell him that his journey includes a quest to find his real queen. He wants no part of marriage to the "doormat" princess back home. He wants a woman with her own mind, her own will.
A funny movie (though definitely R-rated, due to profanity and other elements), we can learn something from Akeem's desire for a self-aware queen. People-pleasing is very unattractive. Oftentimes the people that seek the approval of others above all else end up repelling those very people. Why? Because people-pleasing goes against God's will.
During the teen years, people-pleasing is often at an all-time high. We call it peer pressure. Many teenagers do anything to fit in. Some get involved in drugs and alcohol. Some become promiscuous. Some "dumb down" and sabotage their own educations. Anything to fit in. Anything to make others like them. Anything for friends.
Unfortunately, many of us enter into our adult lives with grownup bodies, but the immature thinking of adolescence. The people-pleaser continues to make decisions based solely or primarily on the approval of others. I'm no psychologist, but I believe this need for approval stems largely from a lack of approval as a child. Oftentimes, the approval addict failed to receive a healthy amount of parental approval.
Listen to an excerpt from The Oprah Magazine quiz entitled "What's Holding You Back?" (See yesterday's post, Day 22: Purpose Stealers - The Fear of Me for more background)
"Fear of Disapproval: You seek permission before you make changes, and you can get stuck when you think it won't be granted. [People] who are addicted to approval often didn't get enough of it when they were younger. As adults they tend to look to titles and salary for validation. People in this category also shy away from asking for help, to avoid rejection. This can be a crippling fear, because pursuing your dreams requires support, whether it's financial or emotional. "Not pretty huh? And trust me. It hasn't been pretty in my life either.
Through the years, God has given me great victory in this area, but every now and then I'm tempted to fall into the vicious cycle of people-pleasing. I don't know y'all. To be honest, sometimes God's approval of me just doesn't feel like enough.
How do I, and you, overcome this staggering purpose stealer? We must have a heart like Paul's.
The Apostle Paul, a zealot for Christ, wrote fourteen of the twenty-seven New Testament books. Throughout Paul's books, which were actually letters to various groups of believers, he spoke much about pleasing God, and not man. Here are just a few of his words:
"Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ." Galatians 1:10
"...We speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts." 1 Thessalonians 2:4
"Paul, an apostle -- sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead..." Galatians 1:1As we're living according to our God-given purposes, we've got to focus on this bottom line: It's all about God. If you don't remember anything else from my blog this month, please remember those words. It's not about us. It's not about the people we most want to please. It's not about anyone else in this world.
The last scripture above speaks clearly to our purpose and this issue of people pleasing. We can only live out our purposes in full joy and fulfillment when we recognize and remember that it's Christ that has made us who we are. Not ourselves. Not our parents. Not anyone else in this world.
There are many people I can thank for helping me become a writer today. My parents did a wonderful job guiding me and providing me with an excellent education -- and countless books during my childhood. (Thanks, Mommy and Daddy!) Several of my teachers have been influential. (Thank you, Mrs. Simms, my English teacher from Western High School!) My husband has been extremely supportive. (Thank you, Honey, allowing me time to shut out the world around me to write this blog daily!) And I can't begin to thank all the family members and friends that have cheered me on from the sidelines.
But it's Christ that's made me the writer that I am. So it is Christ that I must please.
Now, you fill in the blank:
It's Christ that's made me the ________ that I am. So it is Christ that I must please.
Your blank may read "artist" or "teacher" or "real estate agent." Whatever your blank reads, remember it's all about Him. He's the One that we must please first and foremost.
I'm seeking to please Christ above all. How about you?
Purposed For Him,