Living From the Inside Out

I am 58 today.  In the last decade God’s gift to me has come by way of  regular house cleaning He is doing within, answering my prayer: “create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” A humbling joy- filled peace is steadily replacing the cracks and corners where pride, anxiety, and fear once reigned.

He has been at it again in this week, dealing with an aspect of my nature that can sneak in and cloud my heart.

I am a people pleaser.   As such I can worry too much what others think.  I am breaking free of this tendency but there are times when I still need a stiff scrub brush.  I am not talking about casting off an unselfish life that prioritizes the needs of others.  I am referring to a consuming need to be approved by others resulting in a pressure to perform, that can mandate my decisions.

It’s been a unique week.  But then what should I expect after writing about “seeing opportunity in trouble” in the previous blog.  I had an unsettled sense that I should not go to work last Friday, knowing that my oldest daughter was struggling – really struggling- with “hyperemesis gravidarum”, the medical term for relentless vomiting.  I ran up to her home, fed Josiah and Kate breakfast and carted them off to their aunt Stevi’s house before heading to work however, leaving Erin hooked to an IV and medicine pump alone at home.

As I headed to work, my emotions were torn.  I wanted to be home with my daughter – a mother’s heart bleeds when a child is exceptionally ill or injured even when that child is an adult – but I had a day full of meetings and obligations to fulfill at work.  Trying to convince myself that I had to go to work, I realized I was really just torn over who to “let down” – and who to serve.  But deep inside, I clearly knew the answer – I needed to return home and be OK with not meeting the needs and expectations of others.  My own daughter needed her mother.

I have always said that I am a wife and mom first and that ministry and work fall in line after those roles.  That morning I had taken care of Erin’s children but I had left my her home alone, miserable and scared.  While I knew that Erin would handle this as best she could – Glen and I raised our kids to be strong and tenacious –her resolve in no way excused me from making the right choice.

Family is to stand in the gap for each other in times of crisis.  Sadly it is often more glamorous to stand in the gap for others. One’s identity can quickly get wrapped up in serving outside the home because it makes one feel important and valued. One can easily rationalize putting family off expecting them to understand the demands of the workplace or ministry.

Helping others is a good thing and especially in times of crisis but I wonder how many silent crises occur within a home that go unnoticed because family members are too busy attending to issues outside the home.  An unacceptably high number of Christian kids veer from the race of faith once they get past high school graduation, exiting for a variety of reasons.  For some, perhaps the authenticity of faith was not evident within the walls of their homes.  Their families served and did all the right things that church and others expected, but their own struggles were shoved aside and ignored.  Their questions about faith were left unanswered and dark issues within their hearts went unnoticed.

Whether your children will transfer faith forward to their children will be  determined by whether truth becomes permanently etched on their own hearts. And home is the most likely place for the etching to occur.

Is a performance mentality causing you to focus too much energy in quest for esteem from others?  This same mentality will drive your kids to do the same. Behaving well in the eyes of others can be accomplished for quite some time regardless of the condition of one’s hearts or hidden thoughts.  But a brightly painted outside with a hollow core will cave in over time.

Check your heart: Why do you do the things you do and who do you do them for?

Are you a people pleaser?  Do you:

  • Fear loss of approval by others
  • Fear rejection
  • Avoid conflicts
  • Often feel that you are not “good” enough
  • Feel concern about satisfying others’ demands
  • Feel insecure about personal abilities, skills, or knowledge
  • Feel unhappy over not pleasing others
  • Feel disappointed in not being able to make everyone happy
  • Often become exhausted over trying to do too much

Watch out for the potential outcomes of being a people pleaser:

  • Loss of personal identity
  • Loss of personal time
  • Inability to achieve personal goals
  • Burnout
  • Guilt over not accomplishing enough or not being pleasing enough for others
  • Inability to accept kindness from others
  • Chronic state of being hard on self
  • Do not know how to relax

Verses to ponder:

1 Thessalonians 2:4 (NIV)

On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts.

Galatians 1: 10 (NIV)

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

9 Comments

  1. What a powerful entry, Ellen! Thank you for your convicting words. It reminds me of what Mother Theresa responded when asked how we can promote world peace: “Go home and love your family.”

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  2. Very convicting!

    Often, the virtue of responsibility and the vice of insecurity seem indistinguishable.

    This is so hard.

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  3. Happy Birthday my sweet friend!!! I so love the humble spirit from which you write and live, Ellen. Thank you for your transparency that allows us to grow and be stretched along with you. Our prayers are with Erin and your family. Love you Birthday Girl!

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  4. Well this one just hit it straight to the heart for me.. I am a confirmed diagnosed People Pleaser! Especially at work… Thank you for being a reminder of whats important.. and that is our children! Blessings, Callie

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  5. I tend to be a people pleaser, too… especially when it comes to work. I just don’t want to let my boss down! Anyway, thanks for coming home and helping me… I needed you.

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  6. Happy Belated birthday Ellen! Thank you for sharing your heart! We love you! Your friends Robin for the Deans

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  7. The comforting thing is that we have just enough to do everything we ought; the scary thing is that it is up to us to choose that which we ought to do.

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    • So true! Thanks for the great reminder!

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  8. I struggle greatly with “people pleasing” part of my perfectionist nature. I know that God has given me this personality and desire, but I must find the balance to use it for the pure, right, true, noble, and excellent thing. Thank you for this reminder, especially to those of us who work outside the home.

    Reply

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