Confessions of a People Pleaser

As long as I can remember, I’ve been a people pleaser. And I made no apologies about it. I truly believed that’s just the way I was. Even as a child, I had a really hard time saying anything that would cause conflict or confrontation. Even the thought doing so would completely paralyze me. After I got married, my husband (who has no problem expressing his opinion) would coax me again and again to speak my mind rather than hiding my feelings behind an artificial smile. But I just couldn’t do it. I wasn’t even sure why. I just said it wasn’t my personality style. That I was just too nice. I had no idea that my people pleasing went much deeper than that. And I finally came face to face with it one day when I was studying the scriptures.

Here’s the verse that hit me like a ton of bricks:

“But with some I am not well pleased, for they will not open their mouths, but they hide the talent which I have given unto them, because of the fear of man. Wo unto such, for mine anger is kindled against them” (D&C 60:2).

Suddenly I saw that my people pleasing wasn’t a result of being too nice at all. Underneath it all hid a pretty compelling “fear of man.” In short, I really wanted people to like me. I desperately wanted to be admired and respected. So I made sure to never say anything that would offend or turn someone off. I smiled or nodded or laughed even though inside I was feeling completely the opposite. And I think the Lord had finally had enough. He didn’t stop with the above verse either, but sent me to scripture after scripture to show me the “fear of man” and its implications in our lives. It didn’t take long to see that it fit my personality perfectly (see 1 Samuel 15:24, Ezekiel 2:6, John 12:43, Galatians 1:10, and 1 Thess. 2:4 for just a few).

Then came the straw that broke the camel’s back. I found this in President Ezra Taft Benson’s classic talk “Beware of Pride”:

The proud stand more in fear of men’s judgment than of God’s judgment (See D&C 3:6-7; D&C 30:1-2; D&C 60:2). “What will men think of me?” weighs heavier than “What will God think of me?” . . .

Fear of men’s judgment manifests itself in competition for men’s approval. The proud love “the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:42-43). Our motives for the things we do are where the sin is manifest. Jesus said He did “always those things” that pleased God (John 8:29).

With that, I knew I didn’t want to be a people pleaser anymore. I didn’t want to be paralyzed by a fear of offending others. I wanted to be able to speak my mind when the Lord needed me to….without fear and without hesitation. It’s a journey I’ve been on for the last several years. Though it’s been a challenge to learn to break this habit and trust the Lord in stressful situations, I’m finally learning to do just that. Through His grace, I can finally say I’m not paralyzed anymore. I’m slowly learning that the Lord keeps His word when He says, “open your mouths and they shall be filled (D&C 33:8). It’s actually been a really liberating experience.

I say all this because we’ve entered a new day where traditional Christian values are being challenged on every side. And it’s not enough anymore to do what I always did and let the bold ones (like my husband) do all the talking. We all must take part if we’re going to make a difference. I got all fired up about this after reading the article linked below. Give it a whirl and see if it doesn’t inspire you to set aside your fears and join me in opening our mouths in defense of what we believe:

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