Last week my son was knighted in an awards ceremony at school. He was given this honor for displaying the virtue of compassion. Just after I proudly posted the photo below on Facebook, I came across a post from a friend whose child (in a different grade and class) had not been given an award. My friend was hurt and angry because her child had been passed over in favor of kids she felt didn’t earn the honor.
While my friend seethed, her child responded with grace and mercy toward the children her mom saw as undeserving. In fact, my friend went on to say she learned much from the attitude displayed by her child.
As I read through the differing opinions in the comments below her post, I reflected on why we do the things we do.
Are we striving for the rewards given by people or are we motivated by our desire to please God?
I must admit, I struggle with this more than I would care to admit.
As a recovering people-pleaser, I must consciously work at not courting the approval of others.
It feels so good to have people like us (whether by clicking a little social media button, or by showering us with words of approval, awards, or attention).
It feels terrible when someone criticizes or tears us down—even if we deserve it. And when someone else gets the attention I feel I deserve, all kinds of strife results.
So, what is the solution? It’s actually simpler than you’d think.
Words of Wisdom
In his letter to the Colossians, Paul gave the believers some advice on this very topic.
Listen to the apostle’s words of wisdom:
Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with a heart of mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if someone happens to have a complaint against anyone else. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also forgive others. And to all these virtues add love, which is the perfect bond. Let the peace of Christ be in control in your heart (for you were in fact called as one body to this peace), and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and exhorting one another with all wisdom, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, all with grace in your hearts to God. And whatever you do in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:12-17, NET)
What Controls Your Heart?
“Let the peace of Christ be in control in your heart” is for me the crucial antidote to striving and strife.
When I stay grounded in my relationship with Christ, which is made possible entirely by his grace, my ego stays in check.
I have done nothing, not a single thing, worthy of his love and devotion. Yet he has awarded me with the ultimate honor: the right to be called a child of God (see John 1:12).
What Must The Angels Have Thought of Me?
If the angels in heaven responded as I usually do when someone undeserving is given an honor, they might have reacted to my accepting Jesus’ gracious offer of salvation with comments like,
Why is she being made a child of God? Look at all the bad choices she made. Why, she walked into that Bible study just a few months ago thumbing her nose at God. There are so many more deserving people.”
And they would have been exactly right. However, I know the response in heaven was entirely different. God’s word tells me that the angels didn’t gripe and complain when I accepted Christ, they rejoiced. (see Luke 15)
The most important honor we can ever receive is one which we can never be good enough to earn, but which is offered to us anyway.
On our terms, this seems offensive. To our mind, good works should be rewarded, bad choices punished.
And while that principle of sowing and reaping is often at work in God’s creation for the purpose of discipline, thankfully, it isn’t at play when it comes to our salvation!
Ultimately God decides who gets rewarded with his eternal fellowship. And I am so grateful he offers that honor to any who are willing to humble themselves before him and admit they don’t deserve it but desperately need it.
Boundaries 101 for People-Pleasers
If you consider yourself someone who struggles with the tendency to worry about what others think, say, or do, you may benefit from a better understanding of the basic principles of healthy boundaries. I’ve put together a simple cheat sheet that will give you an overview of the subject. If you’d like me to email it to you, just click the button below.
Question: How do you respond when a seemingly undeserving person receives an honor? Or, do you struggle with living to please people? What helps you live for God instead? You can leave a comment by clicking here.