Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash
“You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.”
― English Monk John Lydgate
Although for 600 years people have quoted this passage from his testament, most of us still try most of the time to please most of the people. Jesus Christ was unable to please all the people, and He was perfect. Most of us aren’t perfect most of the time. But it is still difficult when people are displeased with us.
Someone recently posted a negative review about our work at the Healthy Counseling Center. I must admit that I wasn’t pleased that the reviewer wasn’t pleased. Ironically, the writer judged us for judging. Nevertheless, having a critic displeased with our work hurts us. Well, some of us.
I read a story this morning about a young artist who was having the first public exhibition of his art. A famous art critic came to the exhibition and looked at the work.
The critic asked the artist, “Would you like my opinion?”
The artist replied, “Yes.”
The critic said, “It’s worthless.”
The artist replied, “I know but I’d like to hear it anyway!”
I’ll be pleased someday if I can be that imperturbable by someone’s disapproval. Intellectually I believe someone else’s opinion of us is none of our business. When that opinion is posted without evidence to support it, with anonymity so it is without consequences to the critic, and without any way of correcting what displeased the critic, then it may especially be none of our business.
People pleasing is not only a bad goal, it’s a sin against God’s first commandment: Have no other gods before me. Pursuing the approval of other people instead of God’s approval, might have saved Jesus’ life when He was on trial, but He wouldn’t have saved us from sin and death. Good thing for us that He sought first to please God.
People pleasing is a mental health problem–codependency means trying to have someone else’s approval or avoid their disapproval. “Codependency” was defined in addiction research for the spouses of people who were dependent on alcohol. The codependents sought the approval of their addicted spouses and tried to avoid their disapproval. The term has evolved to mean using something outside of us to change or numb how we feel on the inside, especially people pleasing.
When you look in a mirror, seek first to please your Creator, then the person in the mirror. If any of the rest of the people are pleased with any of the rest of the things we do, then we have a bonus.
Remember Rudyard Kipling’s poem about people pleasing?
(I first read it on a graduation card.)
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!