When you play the game Twister, you can pull a muscle trying to put an appendage on every dot. Right hand yellow. Left foot blue. Left hand green. Right foot red. Being a Pleaser is like a game of Twister. You bend over backwards in the impossible task of making everyone happy.
In her book called Power Genes, Maggie Craddock identifies four power types that business executives use in order to lead. One of the power types she calls “The Pleaser.” The Pleaser has traits that make him/her an effective leader. But those same traits can be crippling. Craddock writes, “The Pleaser has honed their ability to make others feel good about themselves but struggle with an ongoing hunger for validation and approval.”
On the positive, Pleasers are highly intuitive. They have a high capacity for empathy. They are exceptional listeners. They are extraordinary diplomats. They are able to draw together divergent groups of people. They are also extremely hard working and responsible.
On the negative, Craddock lists a number of Pleaser faults: Difficulty advocating for self. Avoiding aggressive people. Lack of assertiveness. But the fundamental, underlying fatal flaw of the Pleaser is this, “The dark side of the Pleaser’s sensitivity is that they harbor a deep-seated fear that they will not be liked by others because they don’t measure up. Pleasers need constant reassurance and validation. It can make them approval junkies.”
In order to ensure approval, the Pleaser does everything right. You try to make everyone happy. You don’t offend anyone. If someone is upset with you, you are seriously bothered. You resist making drastic decisions or comments for fear that they might turn someone off. You think a lot about how others will respond to what you wear, say, cook, like, do, and show. Like the game of Twister, every Pleaser reaches an end. You can’t stretch to every dot. You only have so many hands that bend in only so many ways. You will let someone down. You won’t fulfill every expectation. You won’t meet everyone’s approval.
An interesting thing about Jesus of Nazareth is that he ultimately pleased no one. People demanded a sign from him. “Do something to prove yourself.” And when he didn’t, they hated him for it. Then when he did, they said, “You healed on the Sabbath.” Or “it must be by the power of the devil that you did that.” When crowds of people flocked to him, the disciples were inspired and the religious establishment was furious. But when everyone abandoned him at his execution, the religious establishment celebrated and the disciples were dejected.
He did the Father's will and no one was pleased.
He brought the Kingdom of God and fit no one’s mold.
He came as Savior and fulfilled no one’s agenda; he lived up to no one’s expectations.
He loved his enemies and it got him killed.
One of the most distinctive traits of a Christian is the call to "love your enemies" (Luke 6:27). “Love your enemies” is the great remedy for the Pleaser because it confronts the “approval junkie” in all of us. “Love your enemies” is hard, especially for the Pleaser, because it means you won’t get the approval you were looking for. In loving enemies, you’re confronted with your desire for approval. You are confronted with the fact that you will not please everyone. And you are shown that the only approval you need is God’s.
The Christian life isn’t about pleasing people. If it was, someone should have made the Bible a little more palatable and a little less offensive. God’s agenda never pleases everyone, even when it’s for everyone’s own good. If you’re a Pleaser, know that there’s no acrobatic Twister move that can gain the approval of God. The approval of God is bestowed, not earned. When you confront the Pleaser within, you can stop trying to please everyone else and start loving them.