Okay, so! Not long ago, I blogged about how I prayed for a woman who came into the coffeeshop where I volunteer. The woman shared with me how she was going through a difficult time so I prayed for her.
Unfortunately, that was a rare moment. I can sometimes distance myself from sad people because I don’t want their sadness to rub off on me. I put my emotional health first, not risking it to try to help someone in need. That is a flaw I’m working on.
But I’m also noticing instances where maybe, just maybe, distance might be okay.
As I wrote in Jesus-sizing Coffee, being a barista can sometimes feel like being a (pseudo-)therapist. At times, I feel as though people—not friends, just people—have offloaded to me one too many times. I feel drained, talked at, obligated to engage and act like I deeply care, when frankly—and I know this sounds awful—I don’t care. Just being honest here because #blogging.
I don’t want to be someone’s emotional dumpster. But I’m also a people-pleaser. That’s why customer service works for me. I’m all about serving people’s needs. Because making a person happy strokes my ego.
But at what point is it justifiable to hold back from serving others? As far as I can see, the Bible talks a lot about serving others no matter what.
Philippians 2:3-4: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”
Proverbs 3:27: “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act.”
Matthew 5:40-41: “And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.”
Meanwhile, I search for a Bible verse that excuses me from helping others for my own sake.
I know, I know. Take care of yourself first so that, when you do care for others, you don’t put yourself or them at risk. That darn oxygen-mask analogy. (Cue eye-roll).
What I do know, however, is that reading the Bible has made me realize something about being a people-pleaser. Even though we are called to serve others, we should never seek validation in our service to others. We should never seek validation in others at all.
“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10).
Sometimes I wonder if when I lend an ear to a person who needs to vent, I’m not doing it out of love. I do it out of self-satisfaction. I am both overwhelmed from being dumped on and assured in my ability to pander and meet their needs. It’s like I need to feel needed.
But that is not godly service, that is self-service. That is not the love we are called to. Serving others is not pleasing to God unless it’s serving others in love. And love is not self-seeking (1 Cor. 13:5).
So yes, have a servant’s heart and care for people. But don’t pander, my fellow people-pleasers.
With sincere love,