By Wendi Kitsteiner
Let pleasing God become bigger than pleasing people.
How was it that, mere days after my fortieth birthday, I could be knocked upside the head by one sentence, convicted of something I’d been doing my entire life?
But there it was. Staring back at me on my computer screen. It was random. Just a photo and statement on my Facebook feed. But the words convicted me to my very core.
I’m not sure exactly when I began copiously people-pleasing, but I remember being incredibly worried that people didn’t like me in elementary school. I fretted to the point of being physically ill if I thought someone was mad at me. Then I watched as a bully made all my fears come true. She decided she didn’t like me and that she would try to get other girls to not like me. I spent months on end contemplating how to change people’s opinions of me and get these girls to be my friends again.
I grew. I matured. I married. I had children. Still, I worried about what people thought and what they said. I was a college athlete and always had plenty of friends. I was outgoing, and I appeared confident, but inside I was walking a tightrope.
As long as everyone appeared to have the right thoughts about me, I was fine. As long as no one said anything in disagreement with me, everything was okay. As long as my life appeared to be free of conflict, all was well. I walked the tightrope—wobbling whenever anything threatened my perceived perfection.
But in the meantime, I was putting God and the people who truly mattered most behind my worry. I would compromise my values if it meant keeping the peace. I would ask my husband to be inconvenienced to appease my anxieties. I would put my own children on the back burner so someone’s else family wasn’t affected.
And then, I read those eight words. Let pleasing God become bigger than pleasing people.
Right then and there, I made a decision: I am done man-pleasing. It is time to God-please.
Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t snap my fingers and heal forty years of learned behaviors after reading one simple sentence. But I did determine it was time to stop tip-toeing around and get serious about putting God first in my life. And even more than that, it was time to stop making pleasing people my idol.
How did I do it? How am I doing it? I made two purposeful decisions about my life that have begun the long road of healing this negative behavior:
- I decided to put positive in me as often as I could: Scripture, worship music, Bible reading, Scripture memorization, book study. I wanted the truth to be what I thought of first every morning. I started memorizing a Bible passage. I made a worship playlist. I put all things God first. I still have four little kids, and life is really busy, but I’m filling my tiny moments with Christ. I have removed negative from my Facebook feed. I have stopped reading the news and dwelling on anything negative.
- I decided to surround myself with people who build me up, spending my time with the people who truly matter. Like the famous Dr. Seuss quote says, “Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” I realized that my inner core of people accepted me completely and utterly without question, and that I didn’t need to be careful with every little thing I said and did when around them. Those were the people I needed to focus on and spend time with. And I needed to stop worrying about those people whose opinions truly don’t matter.
I have far from arrived. I have a long way to go. But I’m praying that my story may encourage someone else to stop feeling anxious and worried about pleasing people.
Instead, let’s just worry about pleasing God.
Wendi Kitsteiner is a former city girl now living on a farm in the middle of nowhere, Tennessee with her husband and four young children. She is passionate about the causes of infertility, adoption, and keeping it real as a mom. You can follow her at flakymn.blogspot.com or becauseofisaac.org.
Photograph © Hanny Naibaho, used with permission