The Book of Proverbs is filled with pithy sayings that God uses to set the direction of life. For example, Proverbs 29:25 says, “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.”
There is nothing innately wrong about pleasing others. In fact, I love people and so do you. You want to help people and probably have a desire of making people happy. But when “pleasing people” becomes an obsession then it’s wrong. Besides the strong tendency to compromise your values, you’ll find people will tend to take advantage of a “people pleasing kind of guy.” He’s “the guy” who when asked for a favor will always say yes out of fear of displeasing someone. Sometimes people who are called “people pleasers” are really “man fearers.” They are more afraid of the consequences of disappointing people than actually pleasing them. They live in fear. Fear of what could happen. Fear of being rejected. Fear of not living up to other’s expectations. Fear of being “less than.” Fearing man is the opposite of fearing God. It is worry about pleasing men and obtaining their agreement, friendship, and favor, rather than God’s. You are afraid of their displeasure or rejection, so you do what you can to keep their approval and stay friends.
This fear of man is what is called peer pressure. The source of it is your peers – your equals in similar positions in life, the same age group or social crowd. It is pressure because the approval they give or withhold forces you to alter your beliefs or actions in order to keep your standing with them.
The fear of man can come from many sources. Employees can fear their bosses beyond the respect owed to any employer. Pastors can fear their church disapproving of a message and withholding their support. A husband or wife can fear a spouse and the tension he or she can create.
When the Proverbs reminds us that the “fear of man will prove to be a snare,” it’s implying that sometimes you have to speak your mind instead of what someone wants to hear. Speaking your mind doesn’t have to be unloving or mean-spirited. The guidelines should include speaking the truth in the most loving and appropriate way.
Mahatma Gandhi said, “A “No” uttered from deepest conviction is better and greater than a “Yes” merely uttered to please.” Not bad advice.