People-pleasing vs. Christlike Love

A friend of mine asked me recently an interesting question.

I had been talking in my Facebook group about how to get out of people pleasing and she recognized that as a problem for her. 

But she had this problem that she kept coming up against. 

“We are taught all the time that we are supposed to lose ourselves in service. How do you reconcile that with what you are talking about?”

She’s talking about how in my coaching, I often teach that as mothers and wives, we can let our emotions get really tangled up in other people’s emotions. We start thinking that we need to make other people happy in order to be Christlike. We bend over backwards to help those around us in our family or in our callings. 

I teach that there is a huge difference between Christlike service and people pleasing. But we tend to get them confused and that can cause us a lot of pain, overwhelm, and frustration. 

Christlike service is love in action. This is the attribute of charity, the pure love of Christ, that we talk about all the time in church. The motto of the Relief Society is “Charity Never Faileth” and I love it so much. I have felt that love and care from people in my life and have had the joy of feeling charity for others at times. It is truly magnificent. 

On the other hand, people pleasing is not centered in love. In fact, when you get right down to the core of it, people pleasing is selfish in nature. 

People pleasing is acting in certain ways in order to manage other people so that we can feel good. 

It’s saying, “I want them to be OK because then I can be ok. I want them to be happy because then it means that I can be happy.”

For example, if my son comes up to me and wants to play video games even though he hasn’t done his chores ( a guideline that we have had in place for a long time), I have a choice. 

If I’m in people pleasing mode, my goal is to feel like a good mom and I am using his reactions as the barometer for if I am a good mom. Coming from that place, because I want him to feel good and be happy so that I can feel good and be happy, I would probably say yes and let him play video games. 

Because when he gets upset, (which he definitely will if I say no), I feel bad. I feel like a terrible mom, he may even tell me in a very loud voice that I AM a terrible mom and that he hates me. 

This does not feel good. 

But it also doesn’t feel very Christlike. 

When I think about what Christlike love would look like in this situation, I believe that it would be to lovingly tell my son, No. 

It’s looking at what is good for my son, in the long run and not what is going to make me happy and comfortable.

The best thing, the most loving thing, for my son is to learn how to delay gratification, to work hard at mundane tasks, and to follow through on his commitments.

The key to avoid people-pleasing is to look honestly at your motives and the feeling it is creating.

This can be tricky because sometimes we may be thinking thoughts that sound really good. 

“I just want him to be happy” sounds like a kind and loving thought.

You may be thinking this thought about your husband. Maybe he comes home from work one day and you can tell that he is really stressed and kind of grumpy. He might be getting a little inpatient with your kids, or even you. 

So if you are thinking this thought, “I just want him to be happy” what are you going to be feeling?

You could be feeling sad because he’s choosing to not be happy, or maybe you are frustrated that he is treating you or the kids unfairly. Or maybe you are just don’t want the whole night to go badly so you feel kind of desperate or frantic. 

In all of those cases, it is a negative emotion, right? Which you are trying to avoid feeling. You want to feel better. 

In reality, you are trying to manipulate the situation so he decides to start being happy. 

That doesn’t sound like Christlike love. 

The truth is, your husband has every right to have a bad day and be grumpy, if he chooses to. 

And you can choose to respond with Christlike love rather than people-pleasing. 

If you would like to talk about this more, I’d love to set up a free, no obligation call. We can get to the reasons why you tend to people please and get you on the way to feeling better. Just click the button to set it up.