When Pleasing Others Gets in the Way of Leading

  • by Lori Beyar

“Be nice, so that they like you.”

I heard that phrase many times as a child. So that’s what I did. That is what I thought loving others should look like.

But you know what? That is not the way God sees it.

Yes, I know that I am called to love my neighbor as myself. Yes, I am to lay aside my own rights for the sake of another as Christ has done for me, when He laid aside His privileges and died on the cross.

Laying aside my rights doesn’t mean pleasing others. Loving one another really means that I am willing to talk about the hard things, knowing that I am risking the other person’s affection toward me.

Following Jesus’ Example

Isn’t this the very thing that Jesus did when He was with the woman at the well? He spoke plainly. He spoke the truth in love. He knew that was exactly what she needed even if it meant talking about the hard things in her life.

“Rather, speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).

So, I love and care for others in order to help, to serve and to build them up “to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (Ephesians 4:15).

Taking a Risk

In a difficult relationship with a co-worker or friend, I move toward the person and bring up that uncomfortable topic. I do not wait, hoping that someone else will do the hard work of confronting the person, or that the person will just somehow move on. I choose not to wait to be vulnerable with my weaknesses, but I move in authenticity toward others. When I am the only voice in the room that sees a situation differently, I speak up. At times, even encouraging someone is a step of faith, but I do it. Every choice involves taking a risk.

What am I really risking?

… being misunderstood
… the disapproval of others
… and rejection. 

At their core, these risks are about me feeling loved and accepted.

Leading Others by Setting Aside My Desires

As a leader – one who represents the gospel to others – what is God asking me to do about it?

Desires to be loved and accepted are valid and acceptable, however they cannot be the driving force of my life. The desires cannot be the guiding goals which determine my actions, either in my relationships with others or in my work.

Instead, I must purposely set aside my desires and risk moving toward others. In a meeting, I don’t shrink back and stay quiet when I know there is something that needs to be said. When a relationship is in trouble, I don’t turn away and gloss over the issue because it would be uncomfortable to talk about it.

That boils down to seeking the Lord’s guidance, then moving out in faith, and in the power of the Holy Spirit speaking up to say graciously what I see and think, leaving the results to Him. God has called me to be a servant leader and to set aside my own need to be loved and accepted, for the sake of another. It is something I am still learning, but has made a world of difference in how I interact with and lead others.

How about you? What has God taught you about how to love others well?

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About the author: Lori Beyar has been a staff member of Cru for 23 years. She has been part of the campus ministry, and is now involved in leadership development and is on the Eastern Europe area leadership team. Lori is passionate about bringing the gospel of hope to the world by developing leaders. She and her husband, Keith, have three children, ages 13, 16, and 18. They served for 6 years in Central Asia, 12 years in Russia and are currently serving in Hungary.