Confession time. I am a class-A people-pleaser. For real. If it weren’t for my awesome-sauce husband and friends, I would be locked into horrid pyramid schemes, or battered from trying to complete a never-ending to-do list.
My anxiety manifests itself in multiple outlets—like the cleanliness and/or décor of my home, the way I look, how much I accomplish in a day, etc. My unreasonably high expectations naturally lead to frustration, which boils over onto those I love and serves to spread my distress to innocent bystanders.
An Example from the Bible. My people-pleasing tendencies make me think of a Bible story about this issue, found in Luke 10:38-42 (NIV). Jesus and the disciples were guests in the home of Martha, who had a sister named Mary. As Jesus was speaking to those gathered, Martha was in a tizzy trying to get all the hosting duties done, while Mary sat still, listening to every word from Jesus’s mouth. Stressed-out Martha became frustrated that her sister was not helping.
I can imagine Martha preparing the food and setting the table, in a huff. I totally get this. If she was anything like me, her mind was full of resentful thoughts like, Well, Mary is just lazy! or She doesn’t care... Martha’s frustration intensified to the point where she actually rebuked her sister in front of Jesus.
Ouch! Boy, does this ever hit home with me. Way to make things awkward, girl.
In response, Jesus calmly reminded Martha that Mary’s thoughts and actions were focused on what truly mattered, and He wasn’t going to take her away from it. As recorded in verses 41 and 42, Jesus says to her, “…you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed, only one…” In layman’s terms, Jesus told Martha to take a chill pill, slow down and listen.
The message is clear: The glory of God did/does not depend on the presentation of the silverware or sheep-jerky snack bites (okay, I totally made that one up on the spot).
Focusing on What’s Really Important. As much as I want to believe I’d be like Mary—calm, relaxed and savoring the aroma of my life—I’m continually reminded that I would never be this way, or even close. Truth be told, I’m a worrywart and prone to panic. When upset, my thoughts fly to the worst-case scenario before I even take a breath. I’m so focused on myself and how everyone else will see me, that I pass over the most precious things I’m called to do and notice.
I also hear you naysayers out there thinking, Well, Mary did kinda leave her sister high and dry. Uh, no. Had this been true, it’s certain Jesus would have said something to point this out. He calls it as He knows it, with wisdom that often defies human comprehension. Mary was in no way lazy or uncompassionate toward her sister. She was insightful and intuitive, giving her attention to what was most valuable. Imagine being so in touch with your needs that you automatically know when to work, and when to slow down. What a priceless ability!
In our generation, we are quick to seek validation from others, to make sure someone is on our side. But in the chase for approval, we often forget the truth. We may compromise so much of ourselves and our beliefs, that we find ourselves “…gaining the world and losing our soul (Matthew 16:26).” That’s not a good thing.
Life is not about making sure our homes look like a Joanna Gaines custom design. Nor is it about making sure we are buddy-buddy with everyone. It’s about inviting the King of Kings into our hearts, decisions and actions, entrusting all fully to Him. Instead of worrying about what other people think of us, let’s redirect our energy toward building a life that reflects His will for us on earth.
Good Thing God’s in Control! The world is so full of conflicts and distractions, it’s no wonder we feel a knee-jerk urge to control things around us. But guess what? You don’t have to worry, because in reality, God is in control.
John 15:19 says: “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”
This wisdom reassures me that we are not here to please everyone and be adored by all. Rather, we are called to the higher purpose of putting ourselves safely in God’s loving presence, no matter what.
So, exit out of Pinterest and stop scrolling through the endless pictures from Instagram influencers. Sit, breathe and soak in what God has before you in your own life.
By Ashley Dillard