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Have you ever met a difficult person? Somebody who was hard to please, critical, controlling, negative, or even rude? Did a few people come to mind as soon as you read that? Are You Striving for Other People’s Approval?

“The only thing wrong with trying to please everyone is that there’s always at least one person who will remain unhappy—you.” 

—Elizabeth Parker

When we meet sharks (note: they generally don’t look like sharks), we often try to jump through hoops to keep them happy. Been there, got the shirt, went back and got five thousand more. Ha!

Gary and I have had to swim with many, many, MANY sharks in business, ministry, relationships, and friendships. During the first few years of running our business, our life often looked like a shark feeding frenzy!

Honestly, a lot of it wasn’t their fault; it was mine.

I lived in bondage to people. I HATED making people unhappy. 

For many years, I was not good at handling difficult people. I had a lot of insecurity and false responsibility. 

If somebody was upset with me, my whole life came to a screeching halt. I was a serial people pleaser. I spent so much time trying to make everyone happy, but in the end, those people left my life without a second thought! No matter how much I did, it never seemed to be enough for them.

Saying no was hard for me… Disappointing people was hard for me… That made running a business and ministry REALLY hard for me! When I met somebody who wasn’t happy with me, it became my personal mission to make them change their mind.

Can you say DISASTER waiting to happen?

I was performing for their approval.

It was like dropping blood into the middle of the Pacific Ocean. 

I felt heartbroken, confused, and even depressed at times. Sharks were swimming from every direction to get a piece of me. As an insecure, timid leader, I was the perfect shark bait!

Gary and I agonized over putting our trust in the wrong people. We faced betrayals, accusations, and let people manipulate us out of time and money.

I’ll never forget the day Gary came to me with tears in his eyes. “I wrote my resignation letter today,” he said, trying to fight back the crushing disappointment in his voice. 

Where did we go wrong? We used to wake up every day so excited to build the vision God gave us. Now, we were tired, frustrated, and burned out. Honestly, we felt like failures; if we were better leaders, people wouldn’t turn against us, right? 

I thought we were the only ones dealing with these situations, but as we continued in ministry, I found out that we weren’t. Far from it!

We were so close to giving up everything because of sharks.

That is how CRITICAL it is that we understand how to deal with difficult people.

You may feel like quitting today, but I want to encourage you; there are answers!

I know I’m preaching to somebody here!

 

You Can’t Make Everyone Happy

As a Christian, I used to think it was my job to make everyone happy. 

NEWS FLASH: it’s not your job to make everyone happy. Only God can do that—He’s their answer, not you!

I remember a time when I experienced dread every time I had to speak or step out in my calling. I felt like I couldn’t do anything right! And the reason why? I dreaded hearing the opinion of a specific woman who always gave me her two cents’ worth on how I did. We were “friends,” so I thought she had my best interests at heart. 

Wrong!

I remember talking to Gary one day and saying, “They’re going to think….”

My husband kindly interrupted. “Honey, who’s they?” I finally took a step back and realized this friend’s criticism was a huge source of anxiety in my life!

People have a LOT of opinions. The good, the bad, and the ugly… 

They’ll tell you how to dress, style your hair, nurse your children, what to say, how to discipline, and even how you should feel about certain situations… 

IF you let them.

Through the years, I’ve learned a powerful secret about sharks: Sharks don’t eat fish because of anything the fish do. They don’t eat fish because those fish aren’t good enough fish, or because those fish aren’t nice enough to the sharks.

Sharks eat fish because they’re SHARKS!

I learned this lesson the hard way! I didn’t know how to separate somebody else’s reactions from my identity.

 

Jesus was a perfect leader and friend, and even He offended people! John 15:18-19 (NIV) say,

If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.

 

There are people you will meet in life who will get offended with you no matter what you do. If you exhaust yourself trying to please them, you may delay it for a day, but the inevitable will come.

 

Romans 12:18 (NIV) says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

 

Pay special attention to the middle of that Scripture: “As far as it depends on you.” Peace in every relationship is not always within your power. People have responsibility too. Do as much as you can to live at peace with everyone, but don’t live in a state of people pleasing, fear, or intimidation.

 

You have to learn how to separate other people’s actions and reactions from YOUR identity.

And for the record, we can all demonstrate sharklike qualities from time to time! Especially when we’re hurting, tired, or operating out of our emotions.

 

Keep the Vision Ahead

When dealing with difficult people, you have to remember…

You can’t make everyone happy, and that’s okay. God never asked you to!

You’re on a mission. You’re on assignment. You CAN’T compromise your destiny to please people.

Jesus gives us an example of this in Luke 4:42-43 (NIV):

At daybreak, Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them. But he said, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.”

Satan will use people to lie to you, and you’ll accept the lies if you don’t know the TRUTH. 

 

You must understand three things:

  1. There are people who are not for you.
  2. There are people who will NOT like you.
  3. There are people who don’t like your personality. 

 

But so what? These people can‘t stop you if you’re double focused with your eyes on Jesus and don’t take them off. 

It may sound cruel, but sometimes, you just have to let people go. You have to let people go who attack you, let situations go, and keep focused on the mark. 

For over 30 years, I was weak and I was not focused. I was only working for the approval of the people who didn’t like me. Don’t work for the approval of people who don’t like you. This is not how God wants you to live. You are called to reach certain people, so focus on the mission! Keep your eyes on the mission. Jesus did not lose His mission because some people didn’t like Him and got offended with Him. 

How someone reacts when you’re obedient to God and the priorities He has placed in your life interfere with what they want from you isn’t a sign of your failure or unworthiness. It’s simply an indicator of an immaturity in them.

You have to stay obedient to the will of God anyway!

Give people grace, patience, and love, but don’t take false responsibility for other people’s offenses.

We have to become secure in who we are and the mission we have been called to. We can’t let insecurity badger us and beat us up to make us change our mission and change our focus just because someone doesn’t like us or our mission. 

You have to know the lies versus the truth. You need to recognize your mindset directs your life. You need to recognize who is for you and who is against you. Don’t let the culture tell you what you can or can’t have. Don’t let the culture tell you that you’re a victim. Be an example and show all that God has done in your life. 

You are not a VICTIM; you are a VICTOR! 

 

A Love That Never Fails

I want to encourage you to stop looking to the world for external validation because it will never be enough!

When we look to imperfect humans to validate us, we will always come up short. We are trying to have people validate us who need validation themselves! They are also looking for a source of confidence and reassurance in who they are. 

God is not pleased when we allow anyone to control us or manipulate us for their profit. He doesn’t get the glory when others use us to get what they want instead of seeking Him and His way of doing things.

We don’t have to put on a front to go to God and get the approval we are looking for. We are always enough for God! God loves us as we are, no matter how messy we may be. He loves us despite our insecurities, our mistakes, our fears, and our problems. 

When God is your source, you will always be fulfilled. He tells us in His Word He will never leave us nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6). 

As humans, the reality is that we have a void in our lives only God can fill. Money, shopping, the perfect family life, none of it can fill that void. We can make ourselves appear happy on the outside, but at the end of the day, we still will not feel total fulfillment in our lives. 

When we look to God as our source of fulfillment, He will never fail us. As women, we like to be validated by others, but too often, we rely on other insecure humans for our sense of confidence. Instead, when we rely on God; listen to what He says about us; and understand that He is our strength, our worth, and that we are enough in Him, anything the world tells us will be extra. The world will no longer be our source of confidence. 

I want to encourage you to look to God for your identity. Don’t let the world define you. Instead, seek God, and believe what He says about you!

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