Are you ready for the holidays? The church commitments, family dinners -- ahhh! If you don’t like to rock the boat and overextend yourself at this time of year, this article is for you because here come the holidays, ready or not!
If you feel an invisible push that seems to make it hard for you to decline requests you can’t realistically complete, then, you are not alone. According to research commissioned by Rev Dr Charles Stone (People-Pleasing Pastors: Avoiding the Pitfalls of Approval-Motivated Leadership), over 70% reported some level of “people pleasing” to be a problem. As pastors, leading a congregation who willingly serves, loves Jesus, and gives of themselves generously is the goal. Sometimes, when any of us want something (that isn’t happening the way we would like it to) so badly, we rationalize and mislead ourselves into a “people pleasing” thought process that tells us that if we work hard enough to please the misguided sheep, they will see the light. But, that doesn’t necessarily happen. When we move from healthy ‘people pleasing’ to unhealthy ‘people pleasing’ it tends to be because our motivation for saying ‘yes’ has changed.
No longer are we motivated by love, compassion, and kindness towards the other(s), but now we are overextending ourselves almost as a way to make up for their lack of fill in the blank . We are now motivated by something we want. We might want the horse to drink the water that we have led them to so bad that we have forgotten that any real change has to come from within them much like the horse has to want to drink. Sometimes we might want to be liked or accepted because that feels so much better than being rejected. Other times we may try to avoid saying no to such a degree that we sidestep a request and do not answer candidly. This makes it easier for us in the moment, but in reality, it makes things worse because the person walks away expecting one thing and we walk away planning to do something else. Trying to spare someone’s feelings by not saying ‘no’ is not helpful. In fact, it tends to create more pain and misunderstanding than had the request been answered honestly the first time.
It has been said that “over-carers” is another term for “people pleasers” and that by over caring for others, we under care for ourselves. Those of us who may be ambivalent about taking time to care for ourselves, may be fine with that, but the reality is that our ability to care for others comes from our “well” of love, compassion, and faith. If we let our well run dry, we either give others sludge from the bottom of our well, or nothing at all. It is up to us to to say ‘no’ when appropriate, ‘yes’ when we can, and take frequent opportunities rejuvenate ourselves and allow our well to refill; nourishing us mentally and spiritually in the process. We are less likely to succumb to unhealthy “people pleasing” when we are properly nourished in every sense.
Have you found a favorite way to renew and rejuvenate yourself -or- is there something you are looking forward to trying? ** Post your answers to our clergy and clergy family only Facebook group: IGRC Pastoral Care and Counseling. If you are not already a member, send a request to our Group Admin.