Confessions of a Former People Pleaser


During my commute to college last week, my brakes stopped working. I have no idea what set off the problem; I only know that I had to push the brake pedal with all my might, feet digging deep into the floor before the brakes began to engage. Even then it was a very slow stutter to a stop as the car swerved slightly from side to side. Needless to say, my drive home was incredibly scary. I stopped at the mechanic’s on the way home because I didn’t want to risk having reliving that scene again. Thankfully, my brakes are now fixed in time for another long drive early tomorrow morning.

I learned a very important lesson on that nerve-wracking trip home. As I was driving, God showed me how that situation was a picture of my life as a Christian compared to the world.

Godly life

Because I had very little control over my car, I drove far more cautiously than I normally do; don’t get me wrong, I’m not a reckless driver by any stretch of the imagination. However, safety on the road is something I usually take for granted because I’m confident in my ability to maneuver through unexpected situations. But this time I had no such buffer-zone. Plus, I was driving on an Atlanta highway (for those who don’t know, Atlanta is infamous for its reckless, impatient, rule-ignoring, last-minute-darting drivers).

I drove 45-55 mph in a 55 mph zone of people going at least 65-85 mph, leaving three or four car-lengths of space to give room for compensation if the car in front of me came to a sudden slow or stop (which happened several times). People kept moving into the surrounding lanes from behind me, and I’m sure a fair number of them were irritated.

Being a highly sensitive person, I’m usually very aware of what’s happening in my surroundings – including the emotions of others. Because of this, I have often been a people pleaser who goes with the flow at whatever speed everyone else is going. I hate standing out, causing people inconvenience, and being at risk for criticism and/or rejection.

But this time was different. This time, I was facing life or death. One wrong move or second of carelessness could cause death or injury because of my inability to stop my car in time.

Survival required moving slow, remaining alert, and paying close attention.

And for the first time, I realized that I didn’t care. I knew that people were upset with me and speeding up to pass me, but for the first time, I. DID. NOT. CARE.

If you’ve never struggled with caring about others’ opinions, then I don’t know how to explain the significance of this to you. All I can say is that for someone who has continually struggled with a fear of living differently and standing out from the crowds, it was a complete breakthrough – a feeling of freedom from what has been an oppressive, life-long battle.

I often wonder and pray: how can I live without caring about what others think? How do I focus on what matters instead of being distracted by approval or disapproval of others?

In that moment, on a highway with cars zooming past me at lightening speed, God showed me I need to have a dedicated focus to living a Christ-like life in the midst of this crazy, fast-paced, self-centered world.

Yes, living our lives reflecting Jesus looks strange to others – it might look slow, irritating, and overly cautious to the people in the world around us. But, we know the truth even if they don’t – this really is a matter of life and death, and to take your eyes off the road for one second.... to even just lose your alertness to what’s going on around you for a mere moment, could mean death or at the very least, injury – not only to yourself, but to other people.

[pullquote width="300" float="left"]We often take life for granted, because our culture has lulled us into a false sense of security...[/pullquote]

We often take life for granted, because our culture has lulled us into a false sense of security – a belief that we don’t need to pay close attention because we’ve got this thing covered. But, the reality is we are very much mortal, and what’s at stake are our eternal lives – and the eternal futures of those around us. We have to take this life seriously, because it’s the only chance we’ve got to make a difference in the lives of people who desperately need Jesus.

We must stay focused, clear and alert, and pay close attention. Jesus warned us that the day He comes back will come upon us a like a thief in the night – completely unexpected. We need to make sure that we are always on the lookout. It might look like a strange way of living to others, but we’ve just got to do what we’ve got to do.