As I reflect back on my teenage years I must admit that I, like many other students, was concerned with fitting in. I worried about wearing the right clothes, saying the right things, doing the right things. I was in some sense a people pleaser. I am pretty sure I was not alone. But most of the time we tend to think this is a phase we grow out of as we become adults. But if we are honest with ourselves, we don’t. Oh sure, the manner in which we seek to fit in changes. But the driving force of pleasing others, of being liked, is still the same.
In Galatians 1 the apostle Paul speaks to this desire to please others. He clearly states that his goal in life is not about pleasing people. He admits that this was previously the driving force of his life. But not anymore. The gospel has freed him from that life. He now lives to glorify and honor God in every aspect of life. And now, this singular focus frees him up to obediently follow God’s call.
This is a good pattern for all of us to follow as well. Pleasing people is often exhausting. There are so many voices and ideas to conform to. In trying to please everyone, we end up pleasing no one and we begin to lose our own identity in the effort to conform to the standards of everyone else.
Paul invites us to get off the treadmill of people pleasing and join Him in seeking to honor God alone. To be sure, there will be many times in which pleasing God and pleasing others line up. For example, working to build up others in their faith (Romans 15:2), loving your spouse, working hard for your employer all please God and people. But even in these moments we find a simplicity of seeking the approval of one person.
So, as we begin a new year, ask yourself, “who am I going to please in 2018?” Choose to make this new year about pleasing God. And then take the time to daily immerse yourself in the life-giving truth of Scripture so that you will best know how to please God with your life.