If you’re a believer in Jesus Christ, then your life represents a radical departure from our culture—which creates tension between what people expect from you and what God expects. You can feel this conflict in your job, relationships, and even in church with other believers. But being overly concerned with what others think of us is dangerous—it can compromise our communion with the Lord and, as a result, stunt our growth in Him. How can we handle these expectations? Today we have an e-mail that asks:
I want my life to be pleasing to God. But I’m so afraid of disappointing people that I care more about making them happy. How can I stop seeking the approval of others?
Illustration by Jill De Haan
People continually change their minds—somebody may like you today and won’t like you tomorrow. In most relationships, individuals eventually part company, and then what? You’ve spent valuable time trying to please them in ways they probably won’t even remember. Then you’re left on a path set by their values rather than God’s. We’re not under any obligation to please everybody. Instead, our goal is to be obedient to the Lord and to please and honor Him.
Think about people in the Bible who served God. Noah, Abraham, Joshua, Esther, Mary, Peter—they all did some unorthodox things, which certainly did not win others’ approval. Their obedience came at a cost, but they became crucial influences in God’s kingdom. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it,” (NIV) and they did just that.
So how can we follow in the footsteps of these biblical women and men, and let go of others’ expectations? By reminding ourselves of God’s attitude towards us. Psalm 25:4-5 says, “Make me know Your ways, Lord; Teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation.” We need to read the Word of God and soak up what He thinks about us. God loves you; He died for you; He cares for you; He supplies your needs; He undergirds you. God is your friend.
People will continually change, but the Lord never does. You can’t always make others happy, but God loves you just the way you are. Remember, you’re a child of God. You have His approval—sufficient approval—for all of your life. Trust Him. Obey Him. Live fully in the freedom His love makes possible.
Editor’s note: This Q&A was adapted from an archived broadcast of In Touch With Dr. Charles Stanley.