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What Does The Bible Say About People Pleasing?

What Does the Bible Say About People Pleasing? Look over this list of Scriptures about people-pleasers and how you can honor God and others.

Have you ever found yourself saying something to someone because you wanted to be nice and make them happy, but it was not really what you were actually thinking or feeling?

You might think, my friend is really excited about a new dress they bought, and they asked for my opinion of how it looks. *cue panic*

I really don’t think the color looks good on her, but I can’t say that! It will really hurt her feelings. I better say it looks great.

Have you ever said yes to something when you wanted to say no — and knew you should say no — but you did not want to deal with people being disappointed or getting angry if you did not say yes?

Again, you might be thinking, Oh, no! My friend wants me to babysit for her at the last minute, but I have to get that project for work done. 

But I really can’t say no, she’ll be too disappointed and maybe even angry. I guess I have to do it, even though it is going to be a problem for me to finish my project.

People-pleasing is a common struggle that so many people deal with. It is giving the easy answer to someone so that they will be happy with you or being afraid of confronting them, so instead of setting a boundary, you agree to something when you don’t want to.

On the surface, it might seem like a good way to be kind and compassionate, but is it really something you should be taking part in? The reasons behind trying to please people can reveal that it is something possibly harmful to you and dishonoring God.  You are actually seeking the approval of man instead of God’s approval.

Read on to find out what the Bible says about people-pleasing and if you can be a people-pleaser and still honor God.

To gain insight into how people-pleasing can align with Christian values and pleasing God, consider reading this insightful piece from Desiring God.

What does the Bible say about people-pleasing? 

A woman reading her bible about What Does The Bible Say About People Pleasing

Being kind and loving is so important in your relationships with others. God notices when you give of yourself to care for people, and He sees your deep desire to do what makes them happy.

But making people happy is not always the loving thing you might think it is. The Bible makes it clear that you are not serving God fully if you make pleasing people your most important goal.

Galatians 1:10 is a powerful reminder of this, saying, “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

God loves you very much and wants you to trust Him, especially in your relationships with others.

Do you find yourself feeling like you need to please someone or have them think well of you before thinking of what the will of God might be for you to say to them?

That could be a sign you are focusing more on the opinion of a human being than on pleasing God, and on being a friend of the world more than seeking the Kingdom of God.

The Bible goes so far as to say, in James 4:4, that you are God’s enemy if you make friendship with the world more important than being a follower of God

The Bible further states in Psalms 118:8 that the fear of man will trap you, but you are kept safe when you trust in the Lord.

You can trust Him to take care of you, so try to put God first in such situations, even if it means saying no or speaking a difficult truth!

Instead of trying to please people, let it be your goal to say along with the apostle Peter, “We must obey God rather than human beings!”  

This is the honoring choice, to place God first in our lives, even when it might be difficult to say a hard thing to someone we care about.

What is the root of your people-pleasing?

It is easier said than done to reject people-pleasing, however! There are a number of reasons why you are a people-pleaser, and many of them are deeply rooted in your heart and upbringing. 

Wanting to avoid conflict or fearing confrontation is a huge reason for telling people what they want to hear. It is easier to agree or say yes to people than to face the thought of an argument or even the possibility of disapproval on the other person’s part.

Fear of rejection is also a reason why you might be prone to pleasing people. You don’t want to be rejected or discounted, so you do everything you can to please the other person so they will accept you and like you.

Fear of failure or disappointing others is also a reason for people-pleasing behavior. In order to be seen as successful and trustworthy, you may say yes to something you should not say yes to instead of setting a boundary by saying no.

Low self-confidence is a big reason for pleasing others because you want them to like you, but you don’t think they will if you say something they might not agree with, or you don’t actually believe your opinion is worth more than theirs, so you stay quiet to avoid being looked down upon.

For a deeper psychological understanding of why people engage in people-pleasing behaviors, explore this comprehensive article by Psychology Today.

In addition, another common reason for being a people-pleaser is that you are genuinely compassionate, wanting to be kind and considerate in your care for others, and you accomplish this by doing whatever you can to make sure they are happy, often to your own detriment.

Can I be a people-pleaser and honor God?

Lysa Terkeurst speaks to this question very well in discussing whether or not setting boundaries is unkind. 

She says, “…the problem is that if we live allowing other people’s opinions to define who we are, we will be desperate to try and control people’s perceptions of us. We will spend our lives managing opinions to ensure they’re always favorable toward us so we can feel good about ourselves. But think about the tragic reality of this … Being too concerned with gaining the approval of others can give us a heart divided with God.”

If you are insecure and feel the need to be approved of by others, remember that you are a child of God, and He delights in you always. His approval and love are all you need! Let this reassurance help you be loving yet willing to say something others might disagree with.

Strive to be a living sacrifice, forsaking your need to please others and putting your faith in God’s approval and love for you rather than another person’s opinion; He will protect you and strengthen you to serve Him rather than putting all your effort into pleasing people.

It is not easy to face possible disapproval from those you care about when you give up people-pleasing, but you will have God on your side helping you and showing you His truth and will.  

Those who see you setting good boundaries and saying no to people-pleasing will be encouraged by your example and learn to respect you and what you say. 

Bible Verses On People-Pleasing

1. Galatians 1:10 – Please God, Not People

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. – Galatians 1:10

2. 1 Thessalonians 2:4 – Please God Who Tests Hearts

On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts. – 1 Thessalonians 2:4

3. Proverbs 29:25 – Fear of People is a Trap

Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe. – Proverbs 29:25

4. Psalm 118:8 – Take Refuge in God

It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans. – Psalm 118:8

5. Colossians 3:22 – Don’t Seek Favor with People

Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. – Colossians 3:22

6. James 4:4 – Friendship With the World Goes Against God

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. – James 4:4

7. John 12:43 – Loving Human Praise More than God

… for they loved human praise more than praise from God. – John 12:43

8. 2 Timothy 4:3-4 – People-Pleasing In Place of Sound Doctrine

For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. – John 12:43

9. Acts 5:29 – Obey God Instead of Humans

Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings!” – Acts 5:29

10. Proverbs 3:5 – Trust the Lord Instead of Yourself

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. – Proverbs 3:5

11. Romans 12:2 – Transform and Renew Your Mind

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. – Romans 12:2

12. 1 Corinthians 10:31-33 – Do All for the Glory of God

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God—even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. – 1 Corinthians 10:31-33

For a biblical perspective on people-pleasing and how it relates to Christian teachings, the Jesus Film Project offers a thought-provoking analysis.

A woman reading her bible about What Does The Bible Say About People Pleasing

More Biblical Wisdom for Breaking Free from People Pleasing:

What Does The Bible Say About Helping Others Too Much?
What Does The Bible Say About Comparing Yourself To Others?
31 Bible Verses for Feeling Worthless

Sara

Friday 5th of January 2024

Greta, thank you for this insightful article. I could relate to what you wrote at the beginning about not wanting to hurt someone's feelings, yet also wanting to be honest. The Bible verses you included help with finding that balance with God's direction.

Margaret

Tuesday 9th of January 2024

@Sara, I am so glad you found the article helpful! This is something I realized I struggle with myself while writing the article, so God used it to remind me about trusting Him and putting Him first and foremost.