From Pleaser to LifeVestor

by Andy Wood on June 24, 2008

in LV Alter-egos, Pleasers

People PleaserI have a confession to make.  It won’t come as a big surprise to those who know me best or work with me closest.

Deep breath – here goes…

I have a hard time saying, “No.”

There, I said it.  I like making people happy, and for as long as I can remember, I couldn’t stand to disappoint people or hurt their feelings.

In balance, that can be a good thing.  Helps with the whole relationships and people skills thing and all.  Out of balance, it can lead to some bad choices at work and some really unhealthy life choices as well.

In its ultimate expression, people-pleasers become codependents.  Originating from our understanding of the behavior of the spouses of addicts, we have since learned that you don’t have to be involved with an addict to manifest that type of behavior.

Like the other three LifeVesting alter-egos – consumers, hoarders, and gamblers – pleasers twist a virtue into a vice.  In the area of their life resources, they use their resources to buy love or approval.  Often cloaked in an illusion of responsibility, these people give out of an unhealthy desire to “fix” someone they love, or rescue them (often repeatedly) from a crisis.

Pleasers naturally derive a lot of satisfaction from their ability to give freely.  They give their time, their money, their forgiveness, their complete devotion.  They need to be needed, and when the need appears, they give, and love, and serve with total abandon.

But wait.  Aren’t we supposed to love unconditionally?  Yes.  But not at the expense of serving the greater needs of those we love.  Sometimes the worst thing you can do is rescue someone from a bad choice.  Left to reap the whirlwind from his dopey choices today, without the loving interference of a “fixer” in his life, maybe tomorrow he’ll make wiser choices. 

Aren’t we supposed to give generously?  Sure.  But not at the expense of having something left to offer the Lord and the world later.  If you keep giving with reckless abandon, the day will come when you have nothing left to offer.  And God help the giver who has nothing left to give!

Aren’t we supposed to love deeply?  Yes.  But not at the expense of seeking first the kingdom of God.  You can’t love your neighbor or yourself if you’re not offering Jesus your first love.  And sooner or later, first love to Jesus will lead you to say “no” to somebody you desperately want to please.

So what’s the answer?  How do we make the shift from pleaser to LifeVestor? 

1.  Anchor your life to a source of truth that is independent of pleasing people. 

Peter learned that we ought to please God rather than men.  But how did he know which was which?  By the truth of God’s word.  I’ve lost count (and my appetite) of the number of times somebody has said with a straight face to me, “I know what the Bible says, but….”  But what?  Your feelings?  Wise up.

2.  Practice saying “No.” 

I give “no” practice frequently in our church.  Here’s the way you do it:

  • Take a deep breath.
  • Let out half of it.
  • Hold.
  • Smile.
  • Say, “No.”

That’s it.  Not “No, but…”  Not, “No, I’m sorry.”  Just “no.”  Try it.  It feels good.  It’s liberating.  Start with telemarketers.  Then make the jump to your brother-in-law or adult kid who’s always borrowing something or wanting you to join something with them.

3.  Surround yourself with people who will keep your people-pleasing instincts in balance. 

I have some wonderful people in my life who regularly run interference for me or who challenge my tendency to say yes to everything from a telemarketer to one of my adult kids.  Get some of your own.

4.  Learn to maintain healthy relationship boundaries. 

Henry Cloud and John Townsend, who have written extensively on the subject,  explain the concept this way:  people have a need to be in control of their own lives, and they have a need to know that God is behind that idea. 

One of the fundamental principles of LifeVesting is that you, and only you, are responsible for your eternity and your future – and the same goes for others in your life.  Make your giving an act of living.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Ivy June 24, 2008 at 7:11 am

Thanks, Andy. For me the people pleasing element comes from wanting to be liked, from insecurity. It is a struggle to just be obedient to the Lord and and not worry about the opinions of others. Peace.

Tree Newt June 24, 2008 at 7:49 am

Andy, if I didn’t know better, I’d think you were writing about me! Wow, it is hard to say “no”, isn’t it? The desire to be liked, to “fit in” (whatever that means), does not disappear when we leave our teens behind and enter “adulthood.” I particularly have a hard time saying no at church. I feel guilty when I can’t do whatever it is that I’m asked to do. Not because I’m not “serving the Lord,” but because I, one, want to be liked, and two, like it when I’m recognized. Man, that just looks ugly when it’s written out like that.

But I’m learning to say “no.”


Tree Newts last blog post..A Curve in the Road

Liz June 26, 2008 at 10:50 pm

Andy – thanks again for the tip. I have heard you talk on this before, worked on it, forgot it, and really appreciate the reminder. I love giving to others, not to be liked, but to give. I tend to give until I am all given out, then I become frustrated with myself. I will work on a balance. Thanks again for the tip.

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