Show Me the Way: Who am I trying to impress?

I spent some of my best and worst years in high school. Being a teenager is tough! Between the hormones and peer pressure it’s a miracle that any of us turn out normal. But I will always remember, in annoying detail, the cliques. You could look around our high school hallways and clearly see specific groups of people huddled together; the academically, musically, or artistically gifted; the athletes; the troublemakers; the bullies; the class clowns; and (of course) the “cool” kids.

My family changed school districts my freshman year and finding a group of friends was challenging. It was hard to figure out where I belonged and harder yet to find people willing to make room for me in their already tight circles. Eventually I began to connect with those around me, but I learned an ugly truth during the process…I get incredible satisfaction from knowing that people like me and I am devastated by the rejection of others.

Wanting people to like or even love you is not sinful. We are created to live relationally. God knows we need to be surrounded by people who appreciate us. But when we start compromising our actions and beliefs for the purpose of impressing others, there’s a problem.

John 14:15 says, If you love me, keep my commands. Essentially it all comes down to two things – love God and love others. As a struggling teen I used this Scripture as a guide and it’s what I consider to be my very first life verse. It helped shape and define some of my most impressionable years.

I wish I could say that I no longer care what people think of me, but that is simply not true. For 20 years I have been fighting the People Pleaser battle. I am a “yes” person and, if asked to do something, I will almost always agree regardless of the sacrifice. I want to maintain a good reputation. I want to be valued and respected. I love knowing that my time and talents are being spent on things that matter, for people I care about.

But one of the greatest things about having a life verse is that it often changes as you navigate through the different stages of life. Several years ago I was on the brink of burnout. I had invested so much of myself into different ministries and was sinking beneath the weight of them all. I was ready to step away from everything when I happened to glance at Colossians 3:23. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.

Do people matter? Yes, of course! But we aren’t called to do, or to act, or to be our best for other people. That honor belongs to God. Only God. This is something I have to regularly remind myself of. It’s become my motto. My mantra. It is important to be my best, all the time, in everything. Not for recognition from others but because, as a Christ follower, I want to represent Him well.

Love God. Love others. Hold nothing back.

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