Tuesday, March 17, 2009

from one people-pleaser to another (2)

In yesterday's post I introduced Tamar, who struggles with accepting criticism and dealing with conflict. She finds it hard to express her opinion, because she wants people to like her. I talked about what's happening at the level of Tamar's heart - that she believes people are big and God is small - and how Tamar needs a bigger view of God and his grace. Today I talk about how to give her this bigger view of God, and bring it to the level of her experience.

I can help Tamar get a bigger view of God and his grace simply by opening the Bible with her. I'd probably start with the Psalms, because so many Psalms are written by people who fear others, and who are reminding themselves of the goodness and grace of God.

Tamar will learn heaps from the Psalms. She'll learn that God is great, glorious, good and gracious. She'll be reminded how pointless it is to fear people. She'll be given practical skills like how to preach God's truth to herself. Reading the Psalms with her might be all I need to do to begin to address the issue of people-pleasing!

But that could be very esoteric. How do I bring this to the level of Tamar's experience? How do I help Tamar change how she thinks, feels and behaves?

One helpful thing to do might be to encourage Tamar to become more aware of her thoughts. When she's in a situation where she feels scared of criticism or is trying to please someone, I'd encourage her to notice - perhaps even to write down - exactly what she is thinking at that moment. It might be as simple as "I need people to like me".

I'd try to teach her to replace these thoughts with more helpful ways of thinking: to think God's thoughts after him. Martyn Lloyd-Jones says "we must talk to ourselves instead of allowing ‘ourselves’ to talk to us." Tamar needs to learn to speak God's truth to herself (Jn 8:31-32, Rom 12:1-2, Phil 4:8, Col 3:1-2, Heb 12:2-3).

So instead of "I need people to like me", she might say to herself, "It doesn't matter what people think of me. What matters is what God thinks of me, and he already loves and accepts me because Jesus died for me on the cross." I'd also encourage her to learn some Bible verses to think about when she's tempted to think unhelpful thoughts.

Over time, I know from my experience that this will change how she thinks and even how she feels. It will be a slow process, but God's truth does set us free (Jn 8:31-32).

I would also help her to start changing her behaviour. When we reach out to others in love, it helps us to become less focussed on ourselves and on how other people make us feel. Perhaps I'd give her simple challenges each week:
  1. to serve someone at church in a way she finds scary
  2. to say what she thinks even when it's hard
  3. to ask for feedback when she does something
Sometimes acting out of what we say we believe, even when we don't feel it, can help us to trust God, because we see that he's there for us, and that the world doesn't fall apart, even when we do hard and loving things.

Finally, I'd be praying heaps with and for Tamar, because ultimately only God can change our hearts. We'd repent together of our excessive desires for the approval of others. We'd ask God to help us care more about pleasing him than pleasing people. We'd ask God to give us a bigger view of him and his grace, so that we'd be free not to worry about what people think of us, but to love them.

If I was to work through a book with Tamar (which would be an excellent option!) I'd choose from these (in order of recommendation):
Tim Chester You Can Change - helpful for just about any issue!
Edward T. Welch When People are Big and God is Small: Overcoming Peer Pressure, Codependency, and the Fear of Man
Lou Priolo Pleasing People: How Not to be an "Approval Junkie"

images are from stock.xchng


Susie said...

Hi Jean. I found these 2 posts on Tamar really helpful. These issues have arisen in a lot of the material I have been reading and listening too. Thank you for your precise and practical way of dealing with our need to please people.
Suz x

Jean said...

Thanks, Suz.

What material have you been reading and listening to? You've made me curious!

Love Jean.

Susie said...

We have been watching the vodcasts of Mark Driscoll's sermon series on 1 Peter and the people pleasing idea is there, as is a reference to one of the books you suggest.It has also caused me to reflect on how I have dealt with difficult situations and people. Suz x

Jean said...

Thanks, Suz.