“Moreover, if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.”
I am a people pleaser. It’s ultimately why I am going home this year for Christmas. I am sure that I am not the only one who is enough of a people pleaser who find themselves with a difficult family over the holidays. I am just going to do my best to not let my temper get the better of me. Proverbs 15:1 says, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” So, I will try to keep my answers soft and avoid stirring up anger. However, I know I can be pushed too far, and no matter how much I try, I won’t be able to keep my mouth shut
Yet, I am a people pleaser at heart. Being a southerner who believes in being a gentleman with good manners, I was doomed to be a people pleaser. Even if I don’t like the person, I hate them being upset with me. Sometimes, this is to my own detriment. I tried my best to please my family for over forty years, but I never have been able to, and I doubt I ever will. I have said this before, but I feel like I wasted much of my life trying to please others. If I am going to please others, I’d rather do it in a more intimate way that I will also enjoy, if you know what I mean. But I am getting off subject.
Whenever conflicts arise, I most often do my best to make it go away. I will take back what I just said, I’ll change the subject, I’ll even apologize, whatever it takes. Which often meant that even in situations where I should be leaning into a conflict; situations where I am standing up for someone or when I should be standing up for myself, I instead try to appease the other person so I can make my own discomfort go away.
I’ve learned to be more assertive and to do what is right for me, not what everyone else thinks is right for me. I am not completely there yet, though I am genuinely trying. Even so, I still feel that sometimes it’s best to just surrender or at least compromise to keep the peace. In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “The Way of the Warrior,” Worf tells the Chancellor Gowron of the Klingon Empire, “Kahless himself said, ‘Destroying an empire to win a war is no victory…'” The same is true for us in life, destroying ourselves to prove a point or win an argument is no victory. Compromise is sometimes necessary, but sometimes compromise is also not an option. This can be true in politics also, but again that’s a discussion for another time.
Over the years I’ve gotten a lot better about not immediately acquiescing. Now if I get a text, call, or email that sends my heart rate through the roof I wait before replying. If someone says something that hurts my feelings, I am more likely not going to say anything, but my passive aggressive southern nature usually will come out. A pointed stare can say much more than words ever could. I learned that as a teacher. However, I do try to listen more to my feelings, and so, I don’t always shove them aside just to make other people happy.
I am becoming much better about standing up for myself, especially at work. When I feel strongly about being wronged or have a strong opinion that goes against the grain, I craft a thoughtful email response that lays out my thoughts on the matter or decide exactly what I am going to say in person before I say it to my boss. I usually let someone else read over the email before I send it, and I have some people I use as a sounding board for when I know it has to be done verbally. It can be hard, but my boss is also a people pleaser who is also averse to conflict, so he knows that if I buck the system, I have thought long and hard about it and I am very serious. Usually, he seems my side of things.
I think we all have to take up for ourselves. We can’t always be a pushover or try to please everyone. At some point we have to stand up for ourselves and for what is right. It’s always best to be honest. Psalm 34:13 says, “Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit.”