This statement in the title shows that I believe it is my job to control other people’s emotions and thoughts. Do you see any problem with that? As a refresher, here is a link to a recent post about healthy vs. unhealthy relationships.
Avoiding conflict can seem like a very noble, godly thing. Wouldn’t it be godly to try to prevent conflicts and tension and to try to keep everyone happy? “Blessed are the peacemakers” right? I mean – Jesus, Himself, said that! Why not scramble around trying to be extra nice to other people, bending over backwards, to try to keep them from getting angry at you at all costs? Doesn’t that sound like the loving thing to do?
I used to think so!
God does command us to love others and it’s great to head off unnecessary conflict when possible – but our motives are to be to please Him and to bless other people.
Our motives are not to be:
- to get people to like us
- to have the approval of people/the world
- to make things easier for us
- to keep from facing important constructive criticism/rebukes
- to avoid necessary friction and conflict
- to keep people at arm’s length and have superficial relationships
- fear of people’s anger or disapproval
- false humility, playing the martyr, or self-righteousness (the root of which is always pride)
Instead of our being terrified at the thought of someone being unhappy with us – we can recognize that negative emotions are simply a signal that we need to investigate and see if something is wrong. Sometimes our feelings are incorrect. Sometimes they lie to us. When this happens, we can ignore the feelings after we thoroughly and prayerfully investigate. Sometimes our feelings are accurate and are important flags to warn us of a problem – like sin. Sometimes emotions tell us we need to eat or take a nap or have some time with God. Sometimes other people’s feelings are a method God will use to refine us. Other times other people’s feelings reveal sin or a need in their own hearts.
What comes out of a person’s mouth is about his/her character, not necessarily an accurate reflection on us. We don’t need to receive words from others that are not of God.
Let’s talk about some of the ideas about people-pleasing this woman shared in her objections to speaking directly and vulnerably about our needs, emotions, desires, and concerns:
- People may get upset.
- You will be judged.
- You will look weak.
- You’ll sound selfish and demanding.
Thankfully, we are no longer slaves to the opinions or approval of others when we are in Christ! Only God’s approval matters ultimately! Jesus is LORD.
Here is what Scripture has to say about people pleasing:
- Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10
- for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God. John 12:43
- You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. James 4:4
- I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. 1 Corinthians 4:3-4
- Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings! Acts 5:29
But just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. 1 Thessalonians 2:4
WHAT IS A GODLY WAY TO LOOK AT CONFLICT?
There are times when conflict is unavoidable – even necessary and good – like when we need to confront sin. God gives us instructions about how to handle conflict without sinning. But He does not condemn conflict itself or tell us to do anything we can to make other people like us and to make them happy with us in the moment.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:17-19,21
Note that we have some level of control over conflict vs. peace with others. But we don’t have total control. We only control our end of things.
Jesus experienced a great deal of opposition and conflict. How did He handle it?
- Did He cower and run to try to patch things up with the Pharisees who accused Him of blasphemy?
- Did He try to placate the Pharisees to get them to like Him and want to be with Him? He called them “a brood of vipers,” “hypocrites,” and “blind guides.”
- Was Jesus most interested in avoiding conflict with His enemies or was He most interested in doing God’s will and exalting God?
- If you really read how Jesus interacted with those who opposed Him, He was not wimpy, tail-between-His-legs, sniveling, afraid of people, and “nice” in the sense we describe “nice” today. He was firm, unflinching, and bold. He called sin what it was. He did not apologize. He responded with righteous anger when that was appropriate. And yet, He was loving in the midst of it. He did what was right – not what was easiest or most politically correct. He humbly went to the cross because that was God’s will for Him and He loved God – not because He couldn’t stand up for Himself.
Jesus wasn’t troubled by what people thought about Him – even when they totally misunderstood Him. His concern was what God thought about Him. He said things that ran a lot of people off for which He did not apologize. Things like:
- “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25).
- “Go sell all you have and give to the poor… then come and follow Me” (Matthew 19:21).
- He even talked about that people would need to eat His flesh and drink His blood or they have no life in them (John 6:53) – after that, many people stopped following Him. He was fine with that. How? He was able to be fine with them leaving because He knew that God would bring certain people to Him for eternal life and other people would not belong to Him. He accepted that. He never begged anyone to follow Him. He never ran after those who rejected Him, trying to get them to change their minds or trying to make them like Him.