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Christian Counseling: The Desire to Please Others: Harmful or Beneficial?


The desire to give pleasure to God by becoming more like Jesus and engaging in good behaviors and works is a righteous and good-hearted desire. Wanting others to have pleasure is also good. However, there are a number of Christians who believe they should or must please all others; to spare them any bad feelings, and that all too often at the damaging expense of the giver.



The belief that it is our responsibility to please everyone can come from a variety sources. It may come from the fear of conflict (avoid it at all costs), or to escape feeling guilty over hurting another’s feelings, or it may come from teachings about Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 10:32 and 33, “Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God; just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, so that they may be saved.” How simple is his message, “please all men in all things”? Yet, it is a mistake to ponder only one verse in developing a theological belief. So, consider also Paul’s words in Galatians 1:10, “For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.” Which is it Paul? Always pleasing men or not? The answer is found in using discernment, because pleasing or not depends on the circumstances.



There are good and bad motives in trying to please others, as well as there are healthy and unhealthy ways we attempt to please. Have you engaged in self-examination regarding the frequency, motives and your usual style of pleasing others?



By way of example, sometimes we displease people by boldly speaking a wounding truth. According to Paul, that may produce “godly sorrow” necessary for spiritual growth (2 Cor. 7:9, 10). A second example is over pleasing by sacrificing self to a fault that results in repeated self-woundedness while avoiding holding another responsible. Such is the case when we enable people to continue in their bad behaviors and ill-treatment of us. When we give way to needed, proper relational boundaries and surrendering our precious values, and sometimes our rights, to please others we fall into a trap that is not right or healthy for the pleaser or the pleased.



We need to think before we please someone.



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