I’m a grade A people pleaser. I can’t remember when I first noticed this in myself, but it’s been something I’ve struggled with since as long as I can remember. I’ve always wanted to do what’s right by everyone else. It’s not a terrible trait to have since it’s generally kept me from blatantly wrong things, but the issue with being a people pleaser is that when you get to the bottom of it, the opinion of someone else could hinder you from living out God’s call. When do you stop and ask, “Who’s opinions should I be listening to?” “Whose voice should be loudest in my life?” Because if you’re not careful, then your life becomes a performance. You become a person who strives to be loved by others and it’s simply not a posture you’ve been called to live from. We were meant to walk from a posture that we are ALREADY loved by perfect love Himself, God. We were not meant to carry the weight of other people’s opinions because even the most well meaning people are still a little broken. Without meaning to, they can project that brokenness into your life and can cause you to stumble.
Why do I share this with you? Because about a year and a half ago, I had a serious relational meltdown and a lot of it was caused by my people-pleasing. I wish I could say it was with only one person in my life, but there were a couple of people that I had continually allowed to either manipulate me into doing what they ultimately wanted me to do for them, guilt me into believing I wasn’t doing enough for them or their situation, or shame me for being myself. I want to be careful to not sound like a victim here, because I think it’s important to remember we are ultimately called to guard our own hearts and there are so many ways in which I have failed in my relationships too, but I do want to be real with you guys because these feelings are real, these situations do happen and they do hurt.
If you’re a people pleaser like me, these situations may resonate with you. Through this, I learned I was allowing these things to happen because I didn’t want to confront them when they were little things. I allowed them to build up and grow in my heart and I didn’t ultimately know how to say “no” or how to have an open and honest conversation about how I felt. I also realize that these issues became bigger in my heart when I became the victim in the story. I would replay certain conversations in my head and in my story, I was wronged. This limited me from showing mercy towards other people or from understanding where they were coming from.
Something I learned about mercy is that only God has full mercy because until we get to heaven, only God sees the full picture. “…Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” -1 Corinthians 13:12. Also, I learned that we can only show mercy once we’ve been crushed and pressed ourselves. Mercy is developed in our lives once we’ve been through our own tests and trials and we realize we fail too. When I walked through this season, God revealed to me James 3:17 NLT, “But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere.” When I read this, I realized I was so far from showing these things to these people in my life. I was only willing to be right, to be heard, to be understood, but I was not willing to yield to them, to see the situation with a pure heart, to be a peacemaker, or to show mercy.
The biggest step toward healing these relationships was healing my own heart first. We are so quick to point out the hypocrisy in others that we do not take the time to allow God or other people to point out our own hypocrisy too. This victim mentality keeps us in a loop in our lives where we make the Gospel about us and not about Jesus. When we’ve been wronged, we so desperately desire to prove we are right or to avoid those people in our lives, but God, time and time again, invites us to love our enemies, pray for those who hate us, to make peace with those who have something against us. This shows us that our relationships matter to God and that the reason negative relationships take away our peace is because it’s not supposed to be that way in God’s kingdom.
So my first step toward healing happened once I quieted all the noise and distraction in my life, which included social media, or my own efforts to make things happen for myself, or in these relationships, etc. I had to make time with God and make that a priority. Then, I started discerning more what thoughts and ideas came from God and what came from myself or even the enemy. One thing that helped me was reading my Bible, because in it I found stories like the one about Joseph, a man who was so wronged by his own brothers, but didn’t use that against them, instead he forgave them. God used what they meant for evil for his own good. These stories changed my victim perspective and made me remember God’s purpose for my life. Then I actually forgave people who had wronged me. I remember I woke up one morning and said “I am not mad anymore.” The anger that fueled my unforgiveness was suddenly gone. I can now look back at these situations and even though they were painful in the moment, God released me from the burden of anger towards these memories. And lastly, I started to pray for these people. I started to pray for their needs and the burdens God put on my heart for them, and that softened my heart towards them.
This gave me compassion for the people I was having a hard time loving. And now I can look back and say, although it was painful, I am grateful. Walking through this process brought me closer to God, it humbled me, and gave me a deeper love for the people God placed in my life. My relationships are still a work in progress, but now I know that I’m not called to “fix people” but to simply love them, and now I can love the people God placed in my life with more wisdom, forgiveness, and grace.
Now I know that my relationships are meant to give God glory and they’re not meant to prove that I am right or even to make me happy. This understanding allows me to walk in the wisdom of God and not my own in my relationships, and ya know what? It brings you so much more peace that way. How can you show mercy in your relationships? What steps do you need to take to heal and to have a pure heart again towards that person?
To read more of Camille's writing check out her blog: The Girls Fellowship
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