How does one get over the sin of being liked or accepted by the people around them? I struggle so hard by not caring and reminding me that Christ’s love is enough, but sometimes its just so hard not to care and to not forget that Christ’s love is enough. I want to change, but it seems like every time I try I keep stumbling and failing. What should I do?
Along with anger, lust, and pride, this is one of the most besetting sins I’ve ever had the non-pleasure of battling. May I first please point you to a message I did on this recently here, called “I Am Addicted To People.” I talk about the Five Types of People-Pleasers: Entertainer, Rescuer, Romantic, Reputation, and Victim.
The main problem goes by a lot of names: People-Pleasing, Attention-Seeking, Co-Dependency, Peer Pressure, Daddy Issues, Attention-Whore, Class-Clown, Yes-Man. It’s all from the same motives.
There are some fundamental issues to explore with wanting to be liked by people. Once you expose the lies, you can begin to see your way to the truth.
1) Trying to get everyone’s approval is logistically impossible.
Since everyone has a different opinion about your life and what you should do with it, it’s downright impossible to meet everyone’s acceptance of you. Whether you’re addicted to making people happy or getting people to approve of you (both which come from the same motives), it’s a fruitless exhausting endeavor.
A lot of people will also have the wrong facts on you, so you can discard that right out of hand. People will always think they have the best for you when they don’t.
2) Need people less but love them more. (Edward T. Welch)
Maybe this will sound a bit harsh, but the biggest reason we look to peoples’ acceptance is because we are treating them like “commodity-resources,” in which each person is a vending machine that dispenses the drug called approval. Trying to please people is really about serving yourself.
If you can begin to view people as actual people with other functions besides getting you “high,” you can quit needing them and start to love them.
When you really get to know people and love them, you’ll already begin to think of yourself less. That’s true humility. And that’s half the battle.
3) Don’t care what people think about you, but DO care what they think.
It’s impossible not to care about people’s thoughts. So it’s not enough to flip a table and yell, “I don’t care what you people think!” The second you say you don’t care about something, you care enough to say you don’t care.
If you don’t care at all what people think, you have to hide in a high tower with a dead heart and a stone cold soul which is making yourself less human and not more. We have to care at least a little if just for the sake of hearing rebuke and the hard truth.
So instead there must be a re-channeling. I care less and less about what people think of me, but I do care what they think at all. I might not care that people think I’m a buffoon, but I do care if they love Jesus and are not condemning themselves. I don’t care if someone thinks I’m a moron, but I do care if they think they’re a moron. I don’t care if someone hates on me, but I care if they want to kill themselves. Huge difference.
Again, this is about loving people more and reducing our need for them. It takes a disciplined practice to even begin down this road, but that uphill climb is totally worth the freedom. To be free to love people instead of needing them so bad.
My first pastor was one of those people. I always sensed he loved me, but he never really needed me for anything. He didn’t feed off my attention or approval or laughter or anything else. He was a free soul because he just loved me. That’s a good place to be.
4) What exactly can people do?
I totally understand the heartache and fear of someone not liking you. Whenever I find out someone doesn’t like me, my soul stretches out to them and I want to shake them by the shoulders and find out WHY. But then what?
Hebrews 13:6 (the verse I preached from) says, So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”
So let’s break that down. Fear is when you exaggerate a perfectly normal response to an abnormal level. It’s like looking at a cat and thinking it’s Godzilla. Fear predicts a false future; but you already know your future is secure through the cross and resurrection of Christ. So Satan can’t use that one now.
The Lord is my helper. Say that with confidence. It’s already enough that God is with us. That verse is mind-blowing in itself: that the God of the universe loves me. But that second part —What can man do to me? –is like a wake-up call.
I used to be totally mortified when someone didn’t like me. There was fear. But what exactly can this person do to me? If they don’t like me then will I spontaneously explode? Are they going to kidnap my kids and stab me and burn down my house? Should I suddenly become a desperate sniveling butt-kissing weirdo to get their approval? Make them like me or else? And what does their approval actually do for me? Somehow feed my soul until I’m spiritually full?
If you can dig to the inevitable bottom of this lie — that if people don’t like me then I’ll somehow die a horrible death — then it begins to look like the ridiculous lie it really is.
If you can dismantle Satan’s strategy here, you can see right through it and keep moving. Satan hates that. God wants that. We want that.