As a motivator for some years now, I often challenged teens not to conform to peer pressure but to let God’s Word transform their thoughts and actions (Romans 12:2 NKJV). Recently, I realized we adults suffer from a subtler form of this problem called people pleasing.
Those of us who dislike conflict and change (or is that all of us?) find this problem particularly painful. If we’re going to conquer it, though, we have to take an honest look at the pitfalls of putting others’ opinions over what we know God has asked us to do.
Pitfall #1: Pretense over Transparency
Perfectionism often goes hand-in-hand with people-pleasing. We want others to think we have our lives, jobs, and relationships immaculately intact. We crave acceptance and applause at the cost of quenching the impact our messy, imperfect stories can make.
Can you imagine if the Apostle Paul had attempted to cover up his past crimes against Christians? He would never have gained anyone’s trust or been half as effective in spreading the gospel. Instead, he proclaimed from the rooftops “that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15 NKJV).
Are we afraid God can’t use cracked vessels? A quick study of Scripture reveals the very opposite is true. In fact, He chooses the most unlikely people to accomplish His will. Yes, transparency makes us vulnerable, but it can also open doors to the most unexpected, amazing places.
Pitfall #2: Conformity over Convictions
Think about some “gray areas” where godly people often hold varying convictions. Keep in mind that a conviction is a personal belief, not a gold standard.
Since we just talked about transparency, I’ll give a personal example: With rare exception, I don’t watch R-rated movies.Now, does the Bible say, “Thou shalt not watch R-rated movies?” Of course not. In fact, I have friends who can see past the content while still enjoying the story, and I’m happy they can.
If I went to such a movie just so I didn’t “make waves” in a party, I wouldn’t hurt anyone but myself. In I Corinthians 8, the Apostle Paul cautions against injuring our consciences or someone else’s. However, other people can’t respect our convictions if we aren’t open about them. It’s better to be lovingly honest and remember that true friends will respect our boundaries if we communicate what they are.
Pitfall #3: Peacekeeping over Conflict
Gray areas aside, life does contain black and white, right and wrong. God’s Word provides clear direction on many topics this world condones as “socially acceptable” or “freedom of choice.” It also makes plain there’s only one path to heaven through the redeeming work of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9 NKJV).
Certainly, there are times to keep quiet. Several years back during an election, I was acting as manager in my department. Needless to say, the candidates and their controversial platforms often became a heated break room topic. I kept a smile on my lips and my mouth shut, because I didn’t want to lose my effectiveness as manager.
However, we can all think of other situations when staying quiet becomes wrong, because silence often indicates acceptance. In those cases, people-pleasing can hurt our testimony and hinder opportunities to share the gospel. Whether at risk for rejection or not, we need to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15 NKJV).
Do you ever fall into these people pleasing pitfalls? If you’re like I am, we need to take an honest look at our motives, and make sure we’re not sacrificing our integrity and testimony on the altar of people pleasing.
Richard’s testimony is an inspiration. He decided not to be anonymous because he wants his story out there to be told. He believes his story can change someone out there with the same problem he faced before meeting Jesus. Please it might be long but will appreciate if you patient to read it through….
The following text is a personal testimony of how God has brought inner healing from emotional wounds that were inflicted on me as a child, and set me free from a fear of violence and a deeply entrenched behavior pattern that had caused me to hurt others growing up. My hope and prayer is that if anyone reading this is able to identify with any of it, they will come to understand the deep healing and freedom that can be found through repentance and faith in Our Lord.
My story begins with describing myself as an intelligent child who was happy, confident and secure in my home life. This all changed however when my father suddenly left home around the same time I began to experience bullying by a boy who I used to play football with. The boy was a friend at the time, but took it upon himself to beat me and humiliate me at every given opportunity after wrongly blaming me for losing a football game. The bullying I experienced only stopped after I snapped one day and knocked him down, along with his friend who was with him at the time. Both boys had been trying to humiliate me by hitting me in front of others, but something inside just said enough is enough, and I remember a feeling of intense relief because I finally stood up to him. In retrospect I can now see how this was the beginning of a pattern of behavior that was to stay with me well into my adulthood, as I had learnt that people could not hurt me if I hurt them first.
The bullying by this particular boy did not go on for too long, but it was enough to destroy my confidence and teach me that I needed to toughen up to protect myself from being hurt again by others. Subsequently I began to try and create a tough man image that couldn’t have been further from the truth of what I felt inside. In terms of what this looked like for me, as a child I would fight with other kids in the area and would bully and intimidate others. I also became rebellious at home and school, and eventually fell in with older guys who introduced me to drugs and a criminal lifestyle, which caused me to leave school early and enter a very dark period in my life.
Throughout adolescence and early adulthood, I always knew deep down inside I was not really the person I was trying to portray to others. As much as I wanted to try and convince others that I was tough, I knew that there was always someone tougher just waiting around the corner. Inevitably I ended up in a young offender’s institute and I can clearly remember the day I was led away from court in handcuffs and was taken away to spend my first Christmas behind bars. My first sentence was only a few weeks at that point, but whilst incarcerated I was bullied once more by an older guy who took a dislike to me. Despite trying to convince myself I was a somebody, I didn’t really know how to look after myself in an institution, but I quickly learnt that the only way to get by was to make sure that I was able to convince others that I was no pushover. The next time I was sent away for violent disorder, I made sure that I got in with the right crowd and would target certain people to try and establish my reputation even though the fear of violence actually terrified me. This meant that on occasions I would assault someone for no other reason than to try and prove myself. The reality was that I took no pleasure from violence and I always felt sadness for each person I hurt. I knew it was wrong and I wanted to change, but the further I travelled down that road, the harder it became to turn around.
At 21 years old, I was sent away on remand for the first time to a tougher higher prison. I remember walking down some steps and reading a sign that said welcome to Hell. It was made even more chilling by the fact that the prison I had been sent to had been used in a film many years before, and so I actually recognized parts of the building. To make matters worse I was withdrawing from a high amount of opiates and was forced to share a cell with someone who was also coming off drugs. All we had was a small sink and a bucket to use as a toilet and that was one of the lowest moments of my life. We were locked up for 23 hours a day and each morning the door would open for slop out and I would try and get myself together and stick my chest out as I walked down the landing as if I couldn’t care less. The moment I was back in my cell I would sit there in tears wondering how I was ever going to turn my life around.
The fact was that no matter how many times I tried I would always go back to drugs just as a pig goes back to wallow in the mud. I hated life and I hated myself. Other than the drugs I also had been secretly cutting my flesh for years as a way of punishing myself, but also as a way of releasing the anger and pain I felt inside. I would even punch myself at times and hurt myself in other ways, but the more I did this the more confused and fearful I became. I really believed I was becoming insane, because I did not think that anybody else would ever deliberately self-harm. I constantly lived in fear of being found out, but without any obvious way of changing things. I would numb myself with drugs, sex and anything else that would provide temporary relief from the confusion, fear and sadness I felt inside.
Over a number of years, I abused my body to the extreme and it is testimony to God that I am even alive today after having several near-death experiences. Indeed, several times I would experience situations where only the presence of God could account for my being here today to write this, but I will write about them at some point in the future.
After many years of personal suffering and causing suffering to others, I entered treatment in 2007 to clean myself off the drugs. I knew that to continue on the same path would either lead to death or a life sentence in prison, but deep down I had no real hope that things would change. I had tried to get clean many times before, but always seemed to go back to drugs because I could not deal with the intense emotional pain brought by the shame and guilt that the drugs had been masking. After detoxing from the drugs in treatment, I was left feeling vulnerable and naked before others. I really didn’t know how to deal with this and so I spent months trying to push people away by pretending that I felt better than I actually did. I also suspected that I was going to use again when I left treatment, as I could not stand the reality of having to deal with life without drugs. The truth was I was terrified of life and often contemplated suicide, but instead of being honest and sharing this, I would use anger or lies to keep people at a distance and away from discovering how I really felt inside.
It was whilst I was in treatment that a friend took me to church one evening after I reluctantly agreed to go simply to get out for a night. I had previously believed in God as a child, but somewhere along the line my idea of God turned into imagining some ferocious being that punished me every time I made a mistake. I also had church forced on me as a child and all I saw was hypocrites who judged everybody else, but did the very things they judged others for. I therefore went to church that night with no expectations and spent the first part of the service staring at the women in the hope that I may find a nice girlfriend. At some point however, I heard the preacher talking about addiction. He spoke about a God-shaped hole inside each of us and invited the congregation to step forward and accept Jesus. I could really relate to much of what he was saying, but I remember an intense fear of going forward, as I thought that people would be watching me and I could not stand the thought of people thinking that I was a broken man. Even so I eventually fell to my knees and asked the Lord to rescue me from the personal hell that I was living in before quietly leaving the church and travelling back to the rehab.
That night I could think of nothing else other than what had happened at church. I waited till everyone was in bed before closing my eyes and began to pray. I got down on my knees again and repented of the things I had done in life. Despite going to church as a child and going through the motions of repentance, I was suddenly aware of God listening to my cries and I felt genuinely sorry, because I had hurt so many people in my life up to that point. I can see now how unlike my previous prayers of repentance, I meant it wholeheartedly this time and I remember what felt like a cool breeze come over me. I thought that the wind had come into the room, and so I checked all the doors and windows, but they were closed and the heating was on. I now believe this to be the Holy Spirit.
I went to bed that night with a peace that I had never experienced in my life and so began a journey that would ultimately help me clean myself of the drugs, but would actually involve swapping drugs for religious practice, and going to the other extreme of becoming a Christian doormat afraid of conflict and trying hard to be liked by those I placed on pedestals. Of course, I had no idea that this was the case, but in his grace the Lord was good to me and eventually allowed me to understand how I had only partially surrendered my life to the Jesus that I had heard many stories about, but did not really know personally. In terms of the testimony I am sharing now, it is only in the freedom I have found in surrendering to the Lord, that I can now share freely why I acted like some kind of gangsta, when the reality was I was simply a frightened, confused and broken man who had grown up physically, but still felt like a small child inside.
I give all the glory to God for the changes that have happened over time. I have made many mistakes along the way, but I have for the most part been willing to allow the Holy Spirit to convict me of the behavior patterns that have subconsciously controlled me even after becoming a Christian. It is only in the confidence I have in God that I can now share this in the hope it may bring encouragement to others. Furthermore, I can do this without fear of what people may think of me, as my reputation amongst men is no longer as important to me as my relationship with God.
This journey has been long and painful and has involved going through periods where I would just cry for no obvious reason. At times, I wondered if I might be having a breakdown, as I could be simply driving the car and a song on the radio would trigger the tears. I could also be watching TV with the children and I would cry at some cartoon character for no apparent reason. To anyone observing I must have looked like a real wimp at times. I have come to understand however that it’s all part of the healing process and that I do not need to stop myself from experiencing my emotions.
I grew up believing that crying was a sign of weakness in men, but I realize now that could not have been further from the truth.
In finishing this testimony I want to add that I have reached a point in my life where I am no longer afraid of violence or those who would seek to intimidate, because I am one with Him who bore our sins, was murdered, but rose again so that we may find life.
May these words be a blessing to you. Please feel free to share this testimony if you think you may know anyone who might need to hear this.
I am aware most, if not all of the readers of this post know somebody who has struggled and is still struggling with pornography. In fact, I’m doing this post because I’ve seen pornography once again cost somebody more than it’s worth.
From the teenager struggling with new desires to the senior pastor recently caught in sin, even believers wrestle with this sin. Perhaps if we understand why pornography has so much power, we would know better how to fight against it.
The church is often re-ticent to talk about sexuality. Despite the fact that the Bible addresses the issue, we tend to neglect it. Consequently, believers hear the wrong voices about sexuality, miss the beauty of God-centered sexuality, and settle for much less than what God intends.
In general, churches fail to make disciples. Solid Christian discipleship teaches believers how to adore God, wear His armor, and reject the Enemy’s temptations. In too many churches, sexuality “discipleship” is limited to condemnation without godly teaching. The result is believers who are ill-equipped to fight temptation and too afraid to confess their sin.
The Enemy directs us to the temporary and away from the eternal. As with Adam and Eve, the Enemy ma-kes the fruit on the tree look so good that we ignore the long-term consequence of eternal death. The pleasure that pornography brings – temporary and fleeting though it is – trumps our desire to be faithful to the everlasting God.
The lure of pornography builds on natural de-sires. God has created us to be sexual beings, and He gave us clear paramet-ers for sexual expression. Those desires rightly expressed are a beauty of marriage; those same desires under the in-fluence of the Enemy, however, can be distorted and damaging. In either case, the desires seldom go away.
Our exposure to pornography is often early. To be honest, I cannot re-member the first time I saw pornography. I know I was apparently so young that I can’t recall not see-ing it. Early exposure leaves images in your head that never fully go away.
The sin can now be even more private. Back in the days, pornography use required going to the convenience store, quietly asking for the magazine behind the counter, and hiding it quickly in a paper bag. Computer access now erases much of that need for “sneaking” around.
“Soft” porn has become acceptable. When we allow ourselves to watch stuff that we know crosses God’s line – even though it may not qualify as XXX-rated material – we only open the door for the Enemy to press his way into our lives. He does not miss those opportunities.
Pornography use has become expected. More than one study has shown that pornography use is pervasive, even among church leaders. I have even seen church accountability groups where everyone failed the previous week – and failure becomes almost the accepted norm.
Pornography can only create desire, not quench it. Ungodly approaches to meet real needs simply cannot meet those needs. Indeed, pornography only makes you crave more of that which can never fully satisfy. That unmet longing leads only to idolatry and addiction.
Pornography allows pleasure without the hard work of relationships and commitment. Relationships take effort. Our individualistic, hedonistic culture wants the fun without the tough work, and pornography makes that possible – or at least we convince ourselves it does.
If you are struggling with pornography, I encourage you to talk to someone. Pray especially that your Christian family, friends, and children will not fall under the power of this sin.
Butterflies illustrate the benefit of challenges in life.
A man found a cocoon of a butterfly. One day, a small opening appeared. He sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through that little hole.
Then, it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could and it could go no further.
So the man decided to help the butterfly. He took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon.
The butterfly then emerged easily, but it had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings.
The man continued to watch the butterfly because he expected that, at any moment, the wings would enlarge and expand to be able to support the body, which would contract in time.
Neither happened! In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings. It never was able to fly.
What the man, in his kindness and haste, did not understand was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening were God’s way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon.
Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our lives too. If God allowed us to go through our lives without any obstacles, we would not be as strong as what we could have been.
“I asked for strength, and God gave me difficulties to make me strong.
I asked for wisdom, and God gave me problems to solve.
I asked for prosperity, and God gave me a brain and brawn to work.
I asked for courage, and God gave me danger to overcome.
I asked for love, and God gave me troubled people to help.
I asked for favors, and God gave me opportunities.
I received nothing I asked for but everything I needed!”
It’s not sinning that keeps us away from Christ, it’s what we give up or don’t give up to be with Christ. One of the strongest desires in a person is the feeling and want to have intimacy. Now, I don’t mean sex, although a lot of sex is in search of intimacy. Intimacy in a relationship, where they know you better than anyone and you know them. There are hugs, and cheers and tears and joy, health and sickness, a heart which is known and can be held by the other for safe keeping.
As we move towards Christ, even Jesus said it, he was going to be the sword between family. But even worse than this, we are starting to become a target of isolation of society.
The challenge as a Christian is it seems as though we focus a lot of the things of being a Christian rather than on trying to focus on having an intimate relationship with God, with Jesus Christ. It seems as though, maybe it’s just me, but my goal in reading the Bible is not just to know God’s word, but to learn how to be a better Christian, and that is ok, but it’s not trying to find the heart of God.
I now understand why there are so many warnings in Proverbs and Psalms about be weary of the woman. Not that the woman is bad so to speak, but it is what she has to offer. It’s the touch of intimacy that is missing, one may not even know they want it or desire it, but the first touch just melts the heart and weakens the mind.
It’s funny I am writing about this, because the entire focus of Jesus Christ is to have a personal relationship with him, to love nothing greater than He, to love one another as we love ourselves. In short, to have a personal intimate relationship with us. But, I realized, I was not chasing the relationship, I thought I was by doing things, but not like I would with a person of the opposite sex. We can get to know someone so well, we can almost predict better than they what they will feel, do, or say.
I’d like to get to the point, that when something happens in my life, I can say, Jesus would say do this, say that or feel this way.
I pray, we all put ourselves aside and really focus on KNOWING our creator and in the process, I believe as we get to know him, we will find our path, his plan much easier to discover and follow.
Living a life of purity is a daily battle, an ongoing war between our flesh and the spirit of God. Working to recreate us to be like Christ. Without the power of the spirit, our will power eventually fails.
My life is a living testimony to this. Sometimes o make sure am conscious in what am doing especially what comes from my mouth. For one to be in purity, he or she has to be Christ himself because it’s impossible.
But because of the spirit’s power at work within us, our failures in the flesh can be overcome and our progress to our goal of Christlikeness is assured (II Corinthians 3:17-18).