I have watched Saturday Night Live ever since high school. During that time was when Al Franken had a character called Stuart Smalley. Stuart was a “recovered” person who hosted a television show and had guests come on in which he tried to help them love themselves. Before every show, Stuart would look into the mirror and say, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.” Coincidentally, Al Franken wrote a book under the same title. The character (and the book, AND the movie) are a spoof on 12-step programs but hilariously pays homage to them, and self-help authors, at the same time. The preface to the book is by Melody Beattie, a renowned author in the recovery world who’s primary focus is on co-dependency issues. I cannot help but think that Al Franken has some alter-ego in which Stuart Smalley is cheering Al on. What a wonderful blessing that would be to have.
Yet, there is one thing about Smalley that I think is a huge stumbling block. It’s the “people like me” part. What if people actually DON’T like you? He’s built his three-legged stool on the premise that people like him. He depends on that belief in order to get through his life. I mean, maybe not. Maybe somewhere in his book he addresses the idea that maybe people don’t like him but he carries on.
In doing my own share of research and reading, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are three types of people with regard to people-pleasing:
- People pleasers. They care a tremendous amount about what people think about them. The feel a fair amount of anxiety about what they “should” do or what they “ought” to do in order to keep other people happy. They are eggshell walkers. They are “obeyers.” They can fall into a trap that if they please other people, those other people will like them (or like them MORE or even love them). It’s sort of a repeat of middle school/high school where they try to fit in with the cool kids so they did stuff to be liked… stuff that they weren’t comfortable with doing or even enjoy.
- Anti-people pleasers. These people have been failed so much by others that they think not many great souls exist out there. Everyone else is flawed so they don’t like to show their humanness to anyone. These are the people who spend a lot of time talking behind other people’s backs, wondering what kind of “trouble” other people or their families are getting into, whatever information they can find or believe to be true to elevate themselves above others. Those people don’t care about other people much, much less care about pleasing them.
- God pleasers. These people have a great handle on this entire predicament. They know that they are created with both flaws and gifts and embrace both entities. They are well aware that they cannot always please people while also not-compromising their own happiness. They also know that they don’t NEED other people’s approval in order to be happy. Yet, they also know that if their decisions are firmly rooted in Christ that they respectfully don’t need to worry about what other people think.
For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. – 2 Corinthians 5:21
We are NOT perfect, and that’s okay. I’ve written ad nauseum (admittingly) about sharing our stories. It is vital and necessary. Yet, the thing we have to do before the sharing of our stories is to FACE our stories. We have to own our stories. So many people are embarrassed, carry so much baggage around with their stories, are keeping that lockdown on Pandora’s box that eventually that tea kettle starts screaming. If we don’t address those old stories and issues, we start behaving erratically, strangely, horribly, any way we need to in order to keep our stories “safe.” Once we come to an understanding that we are not alone, that our stories are not all that unique or different from other people (even though they may still be embarrassing) the grace we begin to feel about the issue washes us over.
Healing cannot begin until we start sharing. Again… ad nauseum.
We walk in victory regardless. One area where I think legalistic churches have failed a great many people is that we have believed that if we performed x, y, or z rituals that we would be released from the chains of our past. We believed that if we said prayers the right way or in the right intensity that God would absolve us of our sins and “heal” us. The fact of the matter is that’s not how grace works. At all. I think there’s a bit of misunderstanding regarding 2 Corinthians 5:21. It could be interpreted that we “could” be made right… so we could still not be made right. I don’t believe that’s what it’s saying. If we BELIEVE in the power of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, and have dedicated our life to Him, what else is there we can “do?” There is nothing else we can do! So, we ARE made right in Christ’s death!
Those who have been born into God’s family do not make a practice of sinning, because God’s life is in them. So they can’t keep on sinning, because they are children of God. – 1 John 3:9
We are not called to be perfect. God only made one person perfect. Just one, in Jesus. The rest of us He did not. So, we do have our sin tendencies. We all are stricken with a sharp tongue, an addiction problem, cursing issues, gossip issues, material addiction, laziness, etc. We are called to recognize our problem and work to fix it. Sometimes this “fixing” can take place in a split second or it will take months or even years to break. I have my problems and you have yours. We are not perfect people. Yet, as a Christ follower we don’t want to have these problems.
In the 1st Testament, Isaiah wrote that sin keeps us from God (Isaiah 59:2). Yet, if Jesus’ death was a true Jewish offering of a lamb for our sins then what do we have to “worry” about? The price has been paid! 1 John 3:9 doesn’t say that we need to be perfect, it says we shouldn’t make a practice of sinning. It recognizes that we are not perfect people and that we will mess up and we need to ask for forgiveness and move along. We don’t need to grieve and dwell and focus on how we are not perfect people. We don’t need to worry about how unhappy God is with us. Jesus’ death has taken care of all of that, and thank God!!!
… we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. – Ephesians 4:15
People may fail you, but he will never fail you. So, if we aren’t perfect people and God still loves us anyway, we needn’t worry about everyone else. If we are living our lives for Christ the best we are capable or even know how to do, then we shouldn’t worry about what other people think. In fact, it’s sinful to give them that kind of power. Only Christ should have that kind of power in our lives.
Yet, we need to still love people. We are called to love people. Over and over Jesus spoke about how we needed to love everyone, including our enemies. Just because we aren’t being a people pleaser doesn’t mean that we are anti-people either. We shouldn’t have contempt for other people. We are all fighting the good fight, just trying to make it through this broken world. All of us have become broken in some fashion. ALL OF US. We all have our stories. We need to recognize that other people carry their amount of pain, even if they are unwilling to share it. We know it to be true. So, we need to love people still even though we won’t give them power that belongs to Christ.
Stuart Smalley isn’t all bad. He’s on the right track. He knows he’s not perfect yet he knows that he’s good enough. We are all “good enough” when we put God in the driver’s seat of our lives.