I’m obsessed with pleasing people and as a result I tend to dance around a topic without ever getting to the point. It’s just so hard to be direct and speak my truth, knowing that it MIGHT upset someone. Anyone else have this problem? Anyone else a people pleaser to a fault?
Because it’s something that I’ve really struggled with, Proverbs 27:17 jumped out at me and almost knocked me out with its power. It was randomly picked out at a recent talk that I went to and it felt like I was just meant to take that verse and meditate on it for a little while this week.
How can people pleasing become a problem?
My biggest problem area when it comes to people pleasing is at work. I get so scared that my boss or my colleagues are going to hate me that I refrain from making comments or asking for things that I need. I worry that if my boss takes offence to a request I make then he may start to make my life hell.
I know that a lot of this stems from issues that date back to my childhood and actually have very little to do with my current boss. But the fact remains that I still get anxious about speaking my truth when it might not go down well. This means that I often get lumped with shifts that I really can’t do or doing tasks that I don’t feel equipped to carry out. I just muddle through it all to keep the peace.
What can Proverbs 27:17 teach us?
Proverbs 27:17 reads ‘As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another’. In some translations the line reads ‘so a friend sharpens a friend’ or something to that effect.
This could be understood to be quite a brutal verse as it conjures up the image of an axe being sharpened (not something I normally want to practice on a friend)! However most people actually tend to read it in a much more positive light, and being the author of a blog about patience and kindness, I choose to read it in this light too!
So how is this positive?
It is positive if we view ourselves as the axe that NEEDS sharpening to make us better people. Even if the sharpening process is quite brutal it is something that will make us more useful to others because we are no longer dull and blunt. It hints at the fact that friends have the ability to sharpen us in this way because they can practice tough love on us. Being tough on us is OK because we know that their intentions are good and the outcome will only make us better.
This, in turn, means that we must speak our truth if we are going to get the full benefit of this sharpening process. If we pussy foot around the issues that are on our hearts, not really getting to the point, then our friends can’t shape us. We will miss the opportunity to get their opinion and form a more balanced view of the world.
So, as promised, here are five reasons why we must make sure that we say what we really think:
- It holds us accountable. If we tell people about all the things that we want to do then there will always be somebody there to support us and push us along when the going gets tough.
- It encourages us to be vulnerable. I adore the teachings of Brene Brown and I truly believe that showing our vulnerabilities is the way to true forward motion in society. Speaking your truth is scary because it opens you up to all kinds of hurt and criticism, but it can also deepen relationships and help you to grow as a human being.
- It will make you a stronger person in the face of criticism. Once you have spoken your truth and had people disagree with it a few times you’ll feel far less sensitive about it going forward. If we want success in life we need to be able to withstand the bullies out there that are going to laugh and poke fun at our hopes and dreams.
- It sets out boundaries. This is what I need to improve in my work situation. The more I practice this sharpening of my blade and saying that I can’t do something despite the shame I feel about it, the less and less I will be taken advantage of. At the moment I’m seen as a soft touch and the manager knows that I’ll say yes to anything he gives me.
- It makes us shinier, or less dull. This can only help us glorify God because the shinier we are, the more people will look and the more they will want to follow our example.
I hope that you, too, can use this verse to make yourself more confident in voicing your feelings, thoughts and needs. Remember that the striking of the axe might seem like a violent act but it makes it more useful. The axe doesn’t get hurt in the process, it just becomes better at it’s job.