Day 4: People Pleasing

Paper Tigers & Impressing God

A Write 31 Day Series

Day 2 I shared a story that illustrated how much I wanted to have my dad’s approval.  I wouldn’t be being honest with you if I didn’t share how that trying to gain approval stretches to almost every other person I’ve encountered in my life.

If fact, it might be easier to name off the small list of people that I haven’t tried to gain approval from than to tell you who I have.  

I want everyone to like me.  Period.

I think this might be why I love blogging so much.  I can be much more honest here in words than I could ever be face to face.  In person, I am always reading cues and trying to say the right thing.

There is this Bob Dylan song that says, “Half of the people can be part right all of the time, Some of the people can be all right part of the time, But all of the people can’t be all right all of the time, I think Abraham Lincoln said that.”

In my mind, remembering the song, I had changed the quote to say, “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time,” and many people credit that quote to Abraham Lincoln as well.  As I searched the lyric, I realized I had it wrong in my head.

This isn’t how the song goes, but my obsession with people pleasing has warped my brain.

It gets tricker.  Abraham Lincoln never said either of those things.  He’s also been credited as saying, “You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time,” but according to a website called quote investigator, he didn’t say that one either.  A frenchman named Jacques Abbadie actually said it.

All of these quotes make my palms sweaty because I want everything to be right, all of us to agree, and everyone be pleased with me on every level.

I walk around in a constant state of, “Please don’t be mad at me.”

How can I not treat God the same way I treat everyone else?  How can I refrain from looking to the Heavens and thinking, “Please don’t be mad at me.  Please like me.”

I can give you the Sunday school answer that I know God loves me.  We could sing it in our sleep.

Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.

But I know my brain.  I know the ugly, selfish thoughts that scroll through on a whim.  I know the toxic thoughts that I stop, handle, hang onto, and ponder.


How could God like me if He knows me thoughts?

How could God love me if He has searched my heart?

How is God not mad at me?


So I go out of my way to be nice to everyone, even people who have treated me like garbage.  That is what we are to do, right?  Love your enemies, the golden rule, and such, they demand this nice behavior.

If I’m nice, they will like me.  My mom told me that.

Is it possible to be nice to God?  Is that a thing.  I think it is, and I think I have been doing it most of my life.  I have to get God to like me.  I have to make his nice list.

What does this accomplish?  Not only is this the basis of a shallow relationship with God, it negates what Christ did on the cross for me.  Thinking that I can just be nice and good is the opposite of repentance.  If you want to see if good works can impress God, just look at Cain’s offering to the Lord.  Genesis 4 says that Cain and his offering had no regard.  Cain had worked hard to grow that offering of fruit of the ground, but trying hard to please God only lead to bitterness and anger in Cain’s heart.

I could get all judgmental towards Cain, but I have done this.  I have tried to impress God with my good works, and then I have been bitter and angry when he didn’t pat me on the back and high five me.

Letting go of my people pleasing ways is tough.  I’m holding on with white knuckles, afraid to let go.  Letting go of my God pleasing ways is even harder.  Lord, give me the strength to do both.

What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. So I quit being a ‘law man’ so that I could be God’s man. Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not ‘mine,’ but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that.
— Galatians 2:19-20 The Message

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Here's that song I was talking about, since I like to share a song with each blog post.  I like his sense of humor.