As someone who had informally counseled with him, I knew this to be true. But I knew something else about him: He was deeply discouraged and unhappy.
"I'm everybody's doormat," he told me. "It's not that I mind doing things for others. It's that people expect me to drop everything and do for them whenever they need help. But I never seem able to muster the courage to ask anyone else to help me."
He revealed that he was so burdened by the obligation he felt to please others that he couldn't imagine ever striving to achieve the goals he had for his life, even those he felt certain God had planted in his mind.
Mr. Nice Guy, a deeply committed Christian, would then hang his head in shame for these supposedly "unchristian" thoughts. He thought that he was called to be a nice guy/pleaser/doormat.
Of course, we should all be interruptible, open to opportunities to do loving deeds for others. Jesus says that whenever we care for those who need care, we're really serving Him. Such service can be a way of fulfilling Jesus' call to "love others as we love ourselves."
But it's been my experience that people don't fall into the doormat way of living, which is really a life style of slavery, out of gratitude for the love God offers through Jesus, the proper motive for Christian service. Jesus' love doesn't enslave us, but liberates us to become our best selves.
Pleasers though, seem to be motivated by one or more of several different desires:
- Keeping others from becoming angry with them
- Placating those already angry with them
- Avoiding confrontation, creating an atmosphere of false placidness in which differences are swept under the rug, the pleaser accepting servitude without a whimper
- Getting people to like them
- Getting people to depend on them
- Subtly soliciting and receiving compliments
- Making others feel beholden to them, even if the pleaser's desire to be perceived as being competent may prevent them from ever "calling in their chits"
- Feeling powerful, capable of doing for others what they won't or can't do for themselves
- Feeling competent
"If I can be nice enough to everyone," the pleaser subconsciously thinks, "they'll all like me, they'll do what I want them to do, and my life will be easier."
Behind all the nice person's efforts to please everyone is self-loathing. Inside, there's a quaking child with a gaping hole that the pleaser tries to fill with the trophies of others' appreciation and compliments. But such self-aggrandizing approaches to life simply don't work!
In the next installment of this series on discouragement, I'll talk about what I'm starting to learn does work or can work, if we let it.