Why people-pleasing is so bad for your faith and your emotional health


Many Christians today fall prey to the wrong belief of people-pleasing This belief teaches that it's wrong for Christians to upset anybody. Thus, those who believe in it end up living exhausting lives chasing after people's happiness.

Many you or someone you know has been under the influence of this mindset for a time. In this article, I hope to unravel what it is, how it works, and how to break free from it.

The fear of man

To be honest, people-pleasing comes from the "fear of man." Those who are under the influence of such a fear would always want to be OK with people, and so they try to do all that it takes never to upset anybody.

Some who are burdened with such a wrong belief don't know it, but they are already doing what displeases God. They think they are serving men, but in fact they are fearful that if they don't, they will suffer from one of these things:

  1. They will be rejected and unaccepted
  2. They will be hated and labeled "bad"
  3. They will have a bad reputation – "a Christian who doesn't love"

People who have these kinds of fear easily fall prey to controlling and manipulative people. We need to be on guard so we won't fall into their trap.

Friends, remember that man is not perfect and always good. The Bible tells us that "no one is righteous," and so if we look to man for our confidence and acceptance, we might not receive it. Worse, we might end up more broken than ever. This is why Proverbs 29:25 tells us,

"The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe."

Also, we are warned against treating men as a master alongside God. Matthew 6:24 tells us we can never and should never do that:

"No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other."

So is it OK to ignore certain people?

That said, is it OK for a Christian to ignore certain people? Can a Christian choose not to acknowledge certain people's presence?

Believe it or not, yes.

The Bible gives us the best role model for this: the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. We read in the Gospels just how focused He is on one single thing: doing His Father's will. He didn't compromise His obedience to God by pleasing people.

Here's one profound example:

In Mark 6:21 and onwards we read of the account where a synagogue ruler named Jairus pleaded with Jesus to come to his home and heal his daughter. Jesus obliged (v. 24), but as He was going there "some came from the ruler of the synagogue's house who said, "Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?"" (see v. 35).

In verse 36, we read that Jesus overheard the people telling Jairus about the matter, but instead of calling it quits, He ignored the message and instead encouraged the ruler to believe.

In verse 37 to 40, we read how Jesus did not permit anybody except Peter, James, and John to follow Him. He also drove everyone outside the ruler's house before He restored the young girl back to life.

Based on this story, we find that Jesus did ignore people. But He did not ignore everybody – He only ignored those who will not put their faith in Him, or those who won't follow God.  

Another example of this would be His conversation with Pilate, in which He either didn't answer everything the Roman leader asked Him, or He felt no need to further explain Himself when it was clear Pilate hadn't understood.

'But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.' (Mark 15:5)

Knowing this, it's also OK to ignore people when all they do to you is take you away from God or distract you from focusing on the Lord. It's not a sin to let go of people who hinder your relationship with God. In fact, we should always seek God first, more than anything (see Matthew 6:33).