“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
– Howard Thurman
I am a people pleaser. I have been like that since I was a child. Maybe it’s because I’m an oldest child or maybe it is because there is something inside of all of us that longs to be accepted and wanted. I learned at an early age that by being a people pleaser, I could find the acceptance and praise that I longed for yet feel like a stranger in a place where I did not belong. This made me feel good for a little while. Actually, I got stuck into this pattern well into adulthood and still struggle with it today.
Here is the problem with being an overachieving people pleaser. You make everyone else happy and eventually make yourself miserable in the process. And in six short years of ministry as a pastor, I have learned that being a people pleaser is virtually impossible to do. And it makes you tired. Really tired.
I have a question that I like to now ask myself when it comes to decisions about personal relationships and friendships and when applicable, in my ministry. The question is, “Is this life-giving?” Or is it like a Dementor’s kiss from the Harry Potter series where your soul is sucked out of your body?
Being life-giving does not mean it is always fun or pleasant, but it feeds my soul and my life, and at the end of the day, I feel full of a life well lived for that day or moment. There is a difference between that and at the end of the day, feeling like I have nothing left to give and also feeling like nothing was given to me in return.
I love this Howard Thurman quote because it asks the question, “What makes you come alive?” And the first part of this quote can be difficult for us people pleasers. It says, “Don’t ask what the world needs.” He is saying, by doing what we were created to do and being who we were created to be, and living into that calling, is what will make this world and the people around us better.
As the holidays quickly roll around, now is the time to ask ourselves, “What makes me come alive?” And may you find yourself in life-giving situations so that life is received by your aliveness. And may I do the same.