I am a people pleaser. It makes me an excellent employee, friend, wife, and mother. I always viewed it as just part of my personality, or having a servant’s heart. I don’t think I really saw it as a problem until recently. The realization struck me in the middle of just another of the 1 year old’s temper tantrums that I will never be able to make everyone in my home happy at the same time. Never. Not with 4 little personalities so different and ever in flux, not to mention 2 adult people. What a blow to the carefully constructed formula in my head. Happy people around me = my value and importance to them. Now I had to completely revamp this algebraic truth that I could not balance, despite all my efforts.
We are each trying to balance the need for harmony with our own personal needs. It is delicate. How do you rank people and their emotional well-being in order of importance? Am I the priority? My children? My husband? And what about when my ranking doesn’t match up with theirs?
Many years ago, I went on a girls’ camping retreat with a teacher I adored. There weren’t many of us, but we spent our time canoeing, swimming in the lake, cooking our food on a camp stove, i.e. lake living. In addition to all this, every day we took time to sit down and talk out a lot of those fears, dreams, and relationships that teenage girls have. We were challenged to come up with an affirmation to address our individual fears; one that would empower us to look beyond those moments of doubt and uncertainty. I still remember mine, though most of the memories of the soul-searching that went into writing it has been purged from my memory.
“I trust myself, and believe that I am enough, even though I am aware of, and responsive to the worth of others.”
It is easy to see in this statement that I’ve been concerned about the well-being of others for a long time, and that I feel I have a vital role in responding to the needs of the people around me. Somewhere along the line, my worth got tied up in this identity; needing to please people in order to be enough.
Consequently, the inverse is also true. I find myself rationing out my approval, based on performance, or how pleasing other’s actions are to me. Primarily I do this with my children. I reserve the hug, the smile, the laugh is for when they have completed the x, y, z tasks that were asked of them. I scold and find fault, telling myself this is my job as a parent. It has been done unconsciously, with a noble purpose at the root. However, because of this, I am beginning to see the same struggle in my daughter; the struggle of needing to please in order to be enough. That was when I realized something had to change.
A Family Shaped by Grace
Thankfully, this book showed up on my doorstep at just the right time. Gary Morland’s new book, A Family Shaped by Grace has been just the medicine for my heart.
His whole message is about improving those relationships with the people who are closest to you. He describes nearly every relationship I have in the first part of the book, where he is discussing the “rocky river” relationships. There were moments that I could not keep reading because I could see myself in every word. But as soon as I picked it back up, the very next line would encourage me to see myself in the good parts too. His encouraging tone helped me to picture the future relationships that I want for my family, and gave me the tools to make that happen. I felt like I was sitting down with a beloved teacher, who was coaching me through the fears and uncertainty, just as we did many years ago on the lake.
This book has restored my hope that by living with intention, and by giving my family the grace we all crave, we can shape our family to “be an encouraging place to launch, and a soft place to land.”
Relationships are hard, especially with the people who most often see our ugly sides. We tend to let the people closest to us bear the brunt of our tired, off-hand words that are often thoughtless and hurtful. Years of habits and routine become all we have ever known. This book challenges me to take a close look at the only person I can truly change (myself) and how little drops of grace over time become waves that ripple outward.
If you have that challenging relationship in your family tree (and really, who doesn’t?) I implore you to get your hands on this book. It is a game-changer.