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I am a people pleaser.

I’m uncomfortable if I don’t know what you expect of me. But once I know – my impulse is to do whatever I have to do to meet and exceed (if I can) your expectations. I work overtime. I ignore holidays or weekends. I beat myself up when I perceive I’ve failed you – even if that perception is simply based on your delayed response to my email. I’m much more comfortable in a group setting if I have a role with defined responsibilities instead of “just mingle”.

Because I know my neighbor prefers it when my door is open all day and she and her kids can come and go, I feel guilty when I leave it closed for more than a few hours – even if it’s for the sake of my own mental and emotional sanity.

I know this is an unhealthy way to be. No lectures, please – ‘cause I’ll just want to meet that expectation too!

The problem is, if you’re my boss, my team leader, or someone depending on me for a finished project – you would like that I’m a people pleaser. You would not want to hear, “I’m sorry, but I’ve been going full-tilt for two weeks and I needed to drop something and your project’s the one I’ve decided to drop”.  You would like I work overtime to “make it all happen”.

Interesting how we often inflict on others the same unhealthy expectations and patterns we ourselves struggle to live up to.

I do this too. I hold other people to unrealistically high standards. Time unplugged from the computer – good idea. But then I get an “out of office” notice in response to the email I really wanted a quick response to? What’s this nonsense? I think.

Pastors and other ministry staff can face this double standard a lot. Vacation? Good idea to get away sometimes to rest and renew. With the money we’re paying you from the weekly offering? What are you – some sort of slacker?

As someone who experiences people-pleasing impulses, I was happy to be reminded this morning as I read the story of boy Jesus at the temple (Luke 2:41-52) that Jesus was not a people pleaser. He wasn’t disrespectful with his parents, he wasn’t insubordinate – but neither did he let their expectations define him nor prohibit him from staying where he knew he was supposed to be. It was a good reminder that if I’m confident in the roles and jobs God has given me, then I won’t have such a strong need to be defined by others expectations.

The thing is – I can demand that freedom for myself and you can too – but giving that freedom to others takes a whole other type of grace. It means allowing you to be different from me. It means understanding you might need some time to recharge that’s longer or different from mine. You’re free to put up the “out of office” email response and take an unplugged day. The same freedom I demand for myself, I also want to offer to you.

Why do you think it’s so hard sometimes for us to offer the same considerations to others that we ourselves need? Are you a people-pleaser? Do you tend to expect others to be? What helps you stay focused on God’s expectations of you instead of people’s?

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