Is it really my problem?

I’m over believing that I’m cursed. Jesus became a curse for me by hanging on the cross in my place and for my sin.
I’ve not really ever believed I’m cursed except in one thing: I’m a people pleaser. And by God, that feels like a curse. I’ve called it simply disposition, I’ve called it being Canadian – all in jest to mask my underlying frustration with it.

I like peace, I like everyone to get along and be happy, and I will rob myself blind to ensure that everyone is. I remember bawling my head off one week ago today because I felt like I was in a situation in which someone – either myself or others – was going to be upset or hurt. People pleasers can’t win.

But coming to that understanding has helped me realize that I have to embrace that fact and realize one simply complex truth: not everything is my problem.

In reality, people pleasing is a form of idolatry. For me, it’s idolatry of my reputation, because I go to painstaking and sacrificial extremes to make everyone else happy with me and make people think well of me. I sometimes claim to be unempathic, but other times I think I’m hyper-empathic because I’m meticulous in carrying out the thought process that details what others will think of me as a consequence of my actions.

It’s idolatry, and it’s not a good thing.

But as I repent of this idolatry, part of the repentance process is coming to the realization of and embracing the fact that not everything in my life is my problem. Let me explain…

If you’ve read my blogs lately, you may know I have a situation at work that’s draining me a little. But since I haven’t been confronted about it, it’s not my problem.
Imagine someone just decided to stop being your friend and didn’t explain why – that’s not your problem. Maybe if they fleshed out their issues, it would become yours, but as long as someone remains silent on why they don’t like you, why they won’t talk to you, why they don’t want to be your friend, it’s not your problem.
(Quick aside to my faithful regular readers [if such a thing exists] I apologize that I talk about this issue so much. It does mean a lot to me, but I’m working through it and should be able to stop beating this dead horse soon.)

The other annoying thing about being a people pleaser is that it’s difficult to have an opinion, and almost impossible to feel good about it. Having a lot of conviction is really tough, and the more controversial something is, the harder.

But at some point, the people pleaser must steel him or herself and realize that it’s far more commendable to be fully convinced of what you’re convinced of than it is to be wishy-washy about it.
Tougher still, I may add, to follow your convictions in an era in which everything is called a human rights issue, and to stand in contrast to many of these issues is to be inevitably labelled an awful human being.

Isn’t it funny, though, that when someone disagrees with you, it can get to the point of making universal statements? When you’re asked for your views (another word for opinion) you can go from something being debatable to a universal statement on your character and your quality as a human being? If there’s anything that I’ve learned, it’s that things get personal when either someone is offended (which isn’t your problem) or don’t have anything left to say (which also isn’t your problem.)

I’ve lost my train of thought (writing during down time at work) but I’d welcome discussion on this: have you ever made something your problem or your burden when it’s not yours to bear? I’m not talking about “bearing one another’s burdens,” I’m talking about trying to control things you can’t control just because they impact you or someone’s perception of you. In what ways do you struggle with people pleasing and letting problems go when they’re not really yours?

2 thoughts on “Is it really my problem?

  1. I sometimes struggle with people pleasing at my job. My office has 4 men in it half of which openly hate christianity and the church and the other half are indifferent mostly, but happy to mock it as well. They are all much older than I and friends with my Dad so they think of themselves as my “uncles” and love to give advice about my life. I think I greatly confuse them. I am open with them about my faith and the activities I am involved in and they tease me mercilessly about it. It is a hard balance to stay true to my beliefs rather than conform to please them while still maintaining a semi cordial working environment and not outright offend them. Everyday feels a bit like a battle. I am learning to be more and more confident in just being 100% honest about my thoughts and try and ignore the comments. All we can do is love people, even when they don’t reciprocate. It’s interesting though that 1 of the guys who teases me most also wants me to mentor his teenage daughter. People pleasing is hard.

  2. Jeff, I could write a BOOK on being a people pleaser! It has been a terrible inhibitor in the past to my ability to minister to people because I would often take the idea “you can attract more bees with honey than vinegar” to such an extreme that I would never get around to really challenging people. I think being a pastor has been one of the best things to break it because there is always someone who has a better idea about how things should be done. You are dead on, man…it’s nothing but idolatry…worship of self…needing strokes to feel validated. And the best medicine for me has been to just flat out recognize it, repent of it, and bring it to God for transformation. But recognizing it is tricky, too, because there can be a number of reasons other than people pleasing that can make me feel similar ways in different situations. That’s where my mentors and elders in my life…fathers and mothers…are invaluable at helping me process what the heck is going on in my soul!!

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