Seeking Rhino Hide

Kelley Mathews's picture

Qualifications of a pastor:

the mind of a scholar,

the heart of a child,

and the hide of a rhinoceros.

--Stuart Briscoe [1]

I confess, I have lacked that thick hide most of my life. When conflict arrived, I avoided, I hid, I denied, I danced around. Anything to avoid confrontation. Sue (my coauthor) has observed in over thirty years of ministry that most women in ministry are much the same. They are people-pleasers. A few bulldoze their way through conflict, blind to the damage they leave in their wake. But others are more likely to be addicted to approval. Both people-pleasers and bull dozers are particularly vulnerable in conflict, but let’s talk today about us (former, I hope) people-pleasers. What are we like, and what’s the solution?

1. Perfectionism.

If we are perfect and if our work is perfect, then everyone will love us and no one will criticize us, right? Ha! Until we accept that we are finite and frail, and give up perfectionism, we cannot thrive in ministry. We’ll be too busy analyzing our work under a microscope for errors instead of gazing through a telescope for the big picture. Excellence? Yes! Perfectionism? Unrealistic. Besides, our impossible standards rob us of the satisfaction of a job well done. And then we start expecting others to be perfect…

2. Inability to say “no.”

Can you say “Burn out”? Christian women are notorious for over committing, for feeling like they never do enough, and for endless striving. Serving is good unless we serve to be accepted and appreciated by people. If that is our motivation, we have stepped over the line into people-pleasing. If perfectionism is about the quality of our work, the inability to say “no” is about the quantity of our work. Both scream, “If I am good enough, you will approve of me. You won’t criticize, abandon, or reject me.” Dream on, sister.

 3. Dishonesty.

People-pleasers are dishonest—not morally, but socially. If you care too much about pleasing people, you won’t honestly tell them what you think. You can’t help people on self-destructive paths because you are too concerned that they might reject you. In a world crying for authenticity, you are shackled. Honesty is a prerequisite quality for skilled peacemaking.

4. Easily manipulated and exploited.

Leaders love, listen, and look for ways to empower others. But they do so from a position of strength and not weakness. Adversarial women are like sharks in the water. If they smell fear, they will bite. If they have an agenda, they will flatter you to see if they can manipulate you. They look for your weaknesses, and people-pleasing is a big one. If you are too eager to please for the wrong reasons, they will know and lose respect for you.

The cure for people-pleasing

It’s simple. Perform for an audience of One.

Lou Priolo in Pleasing People says, “Learning to please God instead of man is the single greatest remedy to the problem of pleasing man...the fear of man is to be replaced with the fear of God. The desire to please man above all else is to be replaced with the desire to please God above all else...The love of man’s approval is to be replaced with the love of God’s approval.

What are the advantages of pleasing God instead of people? God is not partial but deals with each of us honestly and justly, regardless of gender, race, or background. God loves us unconditionally and knows we are in process. We don’t have to perform for God’s approval. God wants only our best and will not use or abuse us. He is constant so we can trust Him completely. And He knows all things so that as we depend on Him for direction, He won’t steer us wrong.

I have learned that when your main concern is pleasing God, you actually please more people. They respect you for your inner strength and your authentic walk with God.

[1] Marshall Shelley, Well-Intentioned Dragons, Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 1985, 35.

Blog Category: