Dear People Pleasers...
Even if you’ve never seen the 1984 movie Places in the Heart starring Sally Field, you’ve most likely heard some variation of her now famous acceptance speech, made upon winning the Oscar for Best Actress for her performance in the film. Upon receiving her second Oscar, Field exclaims, “I can’t deny the fact that you like me, right now, you really like me.”
I was recently reminded of this moment while reading an article by Sammy Rhodes entitled, “6 Ways to Smash the Approval Idol,” and an all too familiar feeling crept over me.
Because while Field was clearly honored to receive the Oscar for Best Actress, her speech indicates that she was the most honored by the fact that people had voted for her. That they chose her. That they liked her.
Sally, from one people pleaser to another, I feel ya, sister.
It has always been important to me what other people think. I don’t say this proudly - but more as a conclusion I’ve come to over the years. Other people’s opinions matter, even when they don’t jive with mine, even when they’re just wrong or unfair. They matter, even when they shouldn’t.
Lately the Lord has been dealing with me on this matter. He’s allowed other people’s opinions to build me up and encourage me, only to turn around and have other’s truly humble me deeply. It’s been a roller coaster ride of emotions - the kind that takes your stomach at every drop and turn.
But I’m learning we weren’t really meant to live life tossed around by other people’s opinions. We’re commanded to be considerate of other’s feelings, sure, but we don’t have to be defined by them. No, there is only One whose thoughts and opinions matter. The Lord was careful to remind me of this truth as I recently studied a very familiar passage of Scripture in Psalm 139. I’ve read this Psalm many times but recently the words of verse 17 took on new life as I studied them:
“How precious to me are your thoughts, O God. How vast is the sum of them!”
I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that I’ve read that verse hundreds of times. Its one of my “go-to” passages when the going gets tough. But I’ve never read it before as I did just the other day. It was like the words leapt from the page straight into my heart. “How precious to me are YOUR thoughts, O God.” Did you hear that? His thoughts. Only His. Only His thoughts are to be precious to me. Only His thoughts are to affect my heart. Only His thoughts should matter. But if I’m honest, that’s not how I often live. I have a tendency to let others cut in the priority line and as a result, I hold their opinions - their thoughts - in higher esteem than I ought.
The psalmist recognized that only the Lord’s thoughts mattered. That they were thoughts to hold dear and cherish, no one else’s.
And thankfully, the Lord is not silent on what He thinks about and feels for His children. Scripture is filled to the brim with the truth of our identity in Him. But the greatest demonstration of His feelings for us was when He sent us Jesus.
In this same article, Rhodes writes:
“The cruelty of approval is that you can’t ever really know what others think of you. One look at the cross, though, and you can be sure what Jesus thinks of you. He literally loves you to death.”
He literally loves us to death. Despite who we’ve been or what we’ve done. Despite what others may think of us, or whether they think of us at all. We no longer have need to ride the rollercoaster of other people’s opinions. We can look at Jesus and confidently say,
“I can’t deny that You love me. You really love me.”
Sammy Rhodes, “6 Ways to Smash the Approval Idol,” The Gospel Coalition, The Gospel Coalition, INC, August 18, 2016, https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/6-ways-to-smash-approval-idol/.