The Prison of People Pleasing

Session One Memory Verse

“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)

Welcome to week one of When Making Others Happy Is Making You Miserable. My greatest hope and deepest prayer is that you will learn how important it is to not put people in the place of God but allow him to be the one who calls the shots in your life; that he alone will be the one you are aiming to please with your words and your actions. God’s Word has so much to teach us about this crucial endeavor that will help us to break the pattern of people pleasing and instead live our lives with confidence. So, let’s dive right in and learn together. I am so thankful you have joined us!

Video: Busting Out of the Prison of People Pleasing

(21 MINUTES)

Play the video teaching segment for session one. As you watch, record any thoughts or concepts that stand out to you in the outline that follows.

Notes

The topic of people pleasing is found in Scripture. Perhaps the most relevant verse is Galatians 1:10: “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.”

One day Karen felt God urging her, “Sweetheart, I’m calling you to have a summer of ‘necessary’ and ‘no.’”

As we view the actions of King Herod, chronicled in Matthew 14, we sense that he had the disease to please.

Herod didn’t walk in the fear of the Lord. Instead, he feared the crowds—or on some occasions, certain individuals—which made him act in direct contrast to what he truly believed.

Proverbs 29:25 declares that the fear of humans is a snare. In the Hebrew language, the word translated to snare is moqesh. This refers to a trapping device for prey, but it also conveys the concept of bait or a lure that entices, reels in, and then drags its victim away.

The Greek word areskó in Galatians 1:10 is transliterated to English as please. At its core, it means “to agree to satisfy another in order to win their approval, affection, or attention; to meet their expectations; to willingly serve.”

There are two different words for fear in the Old Testament—charadah and yirah. Charadah means to react with immense anxiety or to tremble with great dread. Yirah is defined as responding with extreme awe and thoughtful reverence.

We are all tempted to devour lies when our hearts are unhappy and our souls are hungry.

You do not need their permission to do God’s will.

Spotted on a sweatshirt: “You can’t please everyone. You’re not pizza.”

Group Discussion

(30–40 MINUTES)

Take a few minutes to discuss what you just watched in the teaching video session.

  1. What part of the video teaching stood out or had the greatest impact on you?
  2. When it comes to people pleasing, would you say you generally struggle with it overall in your life or just with a particular person or two? Explain your answer.
  3. Has there ever been a time when you, like Karen, felt utterly trapped in the prison of people pleasing with no way out in sight? Briefly share what happened.
  4. Take turns having one person from the group look up each of the following verses and passages listed below. In the space after each verse, take a moment to record as many observations as you can about its content after it is read.
  • Galatians 1:10
  • Romans 12:1–2
  • 1 Thessalonians 2:3–6
  • John 12:42–43
  • Colossians 3:23–24
  • Acts 5:28–29

Are there any guidelines for interacting with others that you can draw out of these verses—both for what to do and what not to do? Take a moment to choose one guideline and list it below, along with which verse you drew the guideline from. Here is one as an example:

Galatians 1:10: When asked to take on a task or responsibility, before giving the answer, I need to ask myself, “If I say yes, is it because I am trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God?”

Verse: ____________ Guideline: ________________________________________________

  1. Take turns having group members share some of the different guidelines for interacting with others, along with their corresponding verses.
  2. Which of the guidelines just shared do you most need to implement in your life and why?
  3. Discuss your thoughts on King Herod that Karen mentioned. Did you learn something new? How did looking at his behavior puzzle, challenge, or motivate you?
  4. Karen talked about the Hebrew word for a snare: moqesh. This is a trapping device for prey, but it also conveys the concept of bait or a lure that entices, reels in, and then drags its victim away. Have you ever felt trapped by your words or actions because you wanted the approval or admiration of someone else? Briefly tell what happened.
  5. Karen mentioned the two different words in the Hebrew language for fear. Charadah means to react with immense anxiety or trembling with great dread. Yirah is defined as to respond with extreme awe and thoughtful reverence. So, we should not react with charadah (anxiety and dread) toward others, but we should respond in yirah (extreme awe and reverence) toward God. Share with the group your thoughts on these two meanings of the word fear. Do you find yourself tempted to charadah when it comes to humans? How might you more effectively respond with yirah toward God?
  6. BONUS QUESTION: Have a few people read 2 Timothy 1:7 aloud to the group in as many Bible translations as you have among you. Then, fill in the following blanks, using the various words you glean from the different Bible versions.

God’s Spirit does not __________________________________________.
But he does ____________________________________________.

Now, what is the lesson we glean from 2 Timothy 1:7 when it comes to people pleasing?

  1. BONUS QUESTION: In the video, Karen shared this phrase: “You do not need their permission to do God’s will.” Is there a situation in your life where you need to apply this phrase? Share it with the group.

Individual Activity: What Is God Asking Me to Do?

Complete this activity quietly on your own.

Take a moment to get alone in your thoughts, quiet before the Lord. Ask him to reveal one area in your conduct toward a person—or persons—where you need to change. Is there someone you feel controls your behavior because you are afraid to either anger, disappoint, or sadden them? Do you constantly seek the approval of another person or group of people? Is there someone whose opinion you fear more than you fear God? Write down what comes to mind here. (If you personally do not have such a situation, thank God and then spend this time praying for your fellow group members as they do this exercise.) Now, in your own sweet handwriting, pay attention to the blanks below that are strategically stitched inside Galatians 1:10, BUT don’t fill in the missing words. Instead, add the name of someone you identified above.

Am I now trying to win the approval of _______________, or of God? Or am I trying to please __________? If I were still trying to please ____________, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Session One Memory Verse

Each session has a corresponding—and completely optional—Scripture memory verse or passage. Members may want to come to class five minutes early to practice reciting their verses with others; check to see if anyone is interested in doing this. Then, as a group, read this session’s memory verse aloud together:

“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)

Closing Prayer

Have one person close in prayer, focusing on your group’s desire to learn to place the healthy and reverent fear of the Lord above the anxiety-producing fear of man. Then, get ready to learn more in your between-sessions personal study before meeting for lesson two!




Karen Ehman is a New York Times bestselling author, a Proverbs 31 Ministries speaker, and a writer for Encouragement for Today, an online devotional that reaches over four million women daily. She has written eleven books including KEEP IT SHUT: What to Say, How to Say It; When to Say Nothing at All, and Listen, Love, Repeat: Other-Centered Living in a Self-Centered World. Karen has been featured on numerous media outlets including FoxNews.com, Focus on the Family, Redbook.com, Crosswalk.com, and Home Life Magazine. Married to her college sweetheart, Todd, and the mother of three, she enjoys herb gardening, collecting vintage kitchenware, cheering for the Detroit Tigers, and feeding the many teens and young adults who gather around her kitchen island for a taste of Mama Karen's cooking.

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