Amazingly, I didn’t own a decent pair of sneakers. Or a single cute and sporty work-out outfit.
Yet, everyday, I woke up and began working out on my “treadmill.” It didn’t have a bunch of fancy settings. In fact, it had only one: Pleasing People. With each new little life I brought into this world, I turned this setting higher and found myself running at an ever-steeper incline.
If I could please no one else, I was determined to please my children. Earn their love and approval. Satisfy their every need. Be the best mom that I could be.
I painfully discovered that like a treadmill, people pleasing takes us no where. It makes big promises that keep us moving, but the direction is never forward. It keeps us stuck in a place of continual, worn-out exhaustion.
As a mom, these were the dangling carrots that I kept chasing after on the people-pleasing treadmill:
Love. I so desperately wanted my children’s unconditional love. But my method was often too much indulgence, too many second chances and not enough responsibility. I did have their love, but I “earned” it at the cost of a healthy amount of their respect.
Peace. If there’s anything that an approval junkie craves, it’s peace. At any cost. We just want everyone to be happy with us. All the time. You may find this shocking: I discovered that to be an unattainable goal with children. In fact, the more I tried to soothe their displeasure and fulfill their desires, the more their demands and discontent intensified. I didn’t understand that peace at all costs isn’t a healthy goal. When the right kind of peace is achieved, it’s the product of many hard-won, unpopular battles over many years.
Worth. The reason I wanted these little people to love me so much? My worth depended on it. If I could be the best mommy, do all the right things, earn their undying love and gratitude, I might just be enough. But anytime we try to anchor our worth to anything other than God, we end up feeling hollow and hopeless.
Each disappointment and failure to obtain what I sought, left me wounded. I was determined to try harder, but with a fading emotional energy to sustain me.
Finally, burned out and defeated, I jumped off the treadmill. And when I did, it was as if Jesus simply said to my heart, “I was waiting for you to do that, Child.”
No condemnation. No, “What took you so long?” Just an invitation to walk a different path. God calls us to run a race, but not a futile one. He gives us direction, worth, grace, unconditional love — none of which we have to earn. And He invites us to take time to rest and rejuvenate.
I’m still running the good race. But I’m leaving the treadmill behind.
Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant. Galatians 1:10