The Rip Current of People-Pleasing

I’ve been working on a tangle of words, thoughts, and ideas on “People-Pleasing.”

Bring this phrase up in a group of women and the responses are interesting. Most quickly say they struggle with this to some degree. Those that say they don’t struggle with people-pleasing eventually admit it is present in at least one of their relationships before the conversation is over.

So, people-pleasing is something that affects most of us.

And yet, it is something we seem kind of resigned to having to deal with rather than determined to overcome it.

Why is that?

Yesterday I tweeted, “Dead giveaway I’m in the rip current of people-pleasing – when I dread saying yes but feel powerless to say no.”

We all want to be liked. There’s nothing wrong with that. But as we travel the path toward love and acceptance let’s take a look at two of the possible motivations behind people-pleasing.

One motivation is to give love out of the kindness of our heart. In giving love we feel love. That’s good.

Another motivation is to give to others out of what we hope to get in return – love. In getting love from what we do, we feel desperate to do more to get more. That’s dangerous.

It’s the second way that gets us into trouble with people-pleasing. It’s not wrong to want to make others feel loved, happy, and pleased. But if we are doing it with the motivation of getting things in return, we will set ourselves up for trouble. Being in a constant state of trying to get love by doing more and more will lead to exhaustion.

Exhaustion for the giver. Exhaustion for the taker. Exhaustion in the relationship all together.

Ephesians 5:8-10 says, “For at one time you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.”

I like the explanation of what the fruit or evidence is of us walking as children of light – doing what is good, right, and true – as we discern what is pleasing to the Lord.

I am challenged to make this a filter for the decisions I’m making today.

If I’m seeking to please the Lord, I will ask some questions before agreeing to do something for another person: Am I doing this with good motives, right intentions, and true expectations?

Or am I doing this with:

Fearful motives … They might not like me if I say no.

Skewed intentions … If I do this for them will they be more likely to do that for me?

Unrealistic expectations … I just know if I give a little more, they’ll affirm me and I’m desperate for their affirmation.

Wherever we focus our attention the most, that will become the driving force in our lives. The more I focus on trying to figure out how to please people, the more of a magnified force people-pleasing will become in my life. The more I focus on trying to figure out how to please God, the more of a magnified force He will become in my life.
When you are having trouble making decisions, remember who you are trying to please! www.lysaterkeurst.com

My focus. My choice.

Have you experienced the cycle of doing more to get more? I would love to hear your thoughts on this today.


  1. Wendy says

    I am so guilty of people pleasing. Most of the time I see things that need to be done and just do , whether they are my resposibility or not. Its not that I have a problem with doing and giving but I do feel its for the wrong reasons. Hoping that people will like me and need me and hoping to get something back……OUCH!!! Learning to be the light without anyones approval but the Lord and His will for my life. Stepping out a day at a time and realizing I dont need to people please for my life to be filled with JoY!! Doing things from the heart makes me feel good but I do need to question my motives and ask who I am doing this for. My verse for the week is:

    Romans 12:2 NIV

    Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.