Monday, March 16, 2009

from one people-pleaser to another (1)

On Saturday I went to "Building 1-On-1", a mentoring training day for women at Ridley College. I was on a 3-woman panel which addressed specific issues in mentoring. Here's my scenario and the first half of my response (you can expect the rest tomorrow!).

In some ways, this is a worked example of how to apply the principles in Tim Chester's book You Can Change, so if you're reading Nicole's posts on this book, you might enjoy seeing how it applies to a specific situation. I'll start with the scenario I was given:

Head in the sand – Responding when someone ignores the bad things

  1. Tamar hates conflict. She seems to thrive on affirmation from others and consequently, many of her responses and reactions seem to be tailored to please the audience rather than to express her own opinion.
  2. When given any criticism, no matter how constructive, Tamar tries to sidestep the issue while avoiding conflict at all cost. She will often respond by avoiding the relationship until the issue ‘blows over’ or by stopping the friendship rather than considering the validity of the comment.
  3. This has created difficulty in the past as it tends to mean that Tamar doesn’t learn from her mistakes, but rather tries to ignore them. This often limits her personal and spiritual development.
How would you encourage Tamar to accept and evaluate constructive criticism and not to be afraid of conflict?

I’m a little like this myself at times, so at least I can sympathise! It's a tricky one, isn't it? How do you criticise someone for not accepting criticism when they run away from relationships when they're criticised? I don't want to destroy our mentoring relationship before it's begun!

So I'll wait till Tamar feels secure in our relationship before I challenge her about this. When I do talk with her, it won't be in a confrontational way. I'll probably begin by talking about my own struggles in this area. In my experience, when I talk about my struggles, people often say, "Me, too", and that gives me a starting point for addressing their issues.

But if she doesn't acknowledge her problem so easily, there will be a point where I'll have to gently challenge her. I'd probably say something like "I've noticed that you find it difficult to give your opinion or to accept criticism. Is this something you've noticed? Did something happen to make criticism hard for you?"

Which is all very well, but what if Tamar acknowledges that she has an issue with wanting to please people, but she doesn't want to deal with it? I can understand this: it's going to be a long and painful process.

I might need to help her see how it's keeping her from growing in Christ, or how it's stopping her enjoying relationships and loving others. I could share how hard I’ve found it to deal with my own issues, or to accept criticism and deal with conflict, but how much I’ve grown through these things. I might look at some verses which show that God wants to grow us through advice and rebuke (e.g. Prov 15:31, 19:20, 25:12).

Failing all else, perhaps I could encourage her to pray "Lord, I don't want to change, but please make me willing." Only God can help us to want to become more like Christ.

But before I get to the point where Tamar is comfortable enough with me for me to challenge her, there's a lot of groundwork I can do. I can address the underlying issues before I talk about her behaviour.

You see, according to the Bible, all emotions and behaviour come from the heart, our inner self. With our heart, we think and believe; and with our heart, we worship and desire. You can't address negative emotions and sinful behaviour without addressing the wrong thinking and idolatrous desires of the heart.

A people-pleaser like Tamar, at some level, thinks that people are big and God is small. She fears people more than she fears God, and desires the praise of people more than the praise of God. There will also be specific issues: perhaps she's a perfectionist who thinks she needs to get it right, or perhaps she feels deeply unloved.

What Tamar needs is a bigger view of God and his grace. As she gets a bigger view of God, she will start to depend less on the approval of others. She needs to know 4 truths about God (I've taken these from Tim Chester's You Can Change):

  1. God is great - he is in control, so I don't need to control how people see me
  2. God is glorious - he is powerful, so I don't need to fear others
  3. God is good - he is my joy, so I don't need to seek happiness in the approval of others
  4. God is gracious - he sees me as perfect and lovely in Christ, so I don't have to prove myself to others.
Tomorrow I'll share the second half of my response, and how I'd bring this bigger view of God to the level of Tamar's experience.

images are from stock.xchng

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