Tuesday, November 6, 2012


Writing this post is risky.

I want to write about some struggles I have been having at work recently, but I am reluctant to do so because I know full well that some of my coworkers or perhaps even my boss might read my words.  I don't keep my blog a secret and it pops up on my Facebook wall automatically, so anything I write is immediately attached to my public presence, for better or for worse.

But I'm all about honesty here, in this space.  My blog isn't just for sharing cute photos of my boys or telling you only the warm and fuzzy things that are happening in our world.  It's also for the hard stuff, the battles, the struggles and the triumphs.

As you probably know by now, I started at a new job in September after our move to a new city.  This was scary for me since the restaurant I worked at for several years was very comfortable for me and I felt like a crucial part of their family.  To leave was painful and difficult.  Learning the ropes at a new restaurant and working hard to make a good impression was important for a people pleaser like me.

You know, for someone who is supposed to be so smart, I can really be pretty slow on the uptake about some things.  I'm finally starting to slowly come to the realization that being a people pleaser is like being trapped in quicksand.  I don't know about you, but I get so hung up on striving toward acceptance and approval that I forget to look around me and make sure I'm walking on safe ground.  Before I know it, I've taken one false step and I am suddenly trapped.  Feelings of inadequacy haunt me and I strive toward working just a little bit harder, taking on just a little more onto my plate, saying yes when I really should be saying no, conforming to patterns of speech or behavior that make me fit in rather than make me stand out.

All in the name of being accepted and valued by other people.

What a waste of time.

All that effort, fighting, kicking, working, and climbing only gets me deeper and deeper into the pit of quicksand and suddenly I am left buried and exhausted.  Instead of being valued and approved of, I find myself face to face with my boss fighting to hold back the tears that are stinging the back of my eyes after the harsh words are spat in my face.  Where did I go wrong?  Should I just give in and let my family down so I can win back the approval of my employer?  What will my coworkers think?  Even worse....what will they say about me when I'm not around?  The horror of the disapproval seeps into my heart and I find myself unable to dig out.  I am listless, depressed, and disappointed in myself.

Then, when I'm all alone and cleaning up after my last table on this extremely difficult evening, I find myself on my knees before my king.

Father, I don't even know how to ask this of you.  My heart hurts, God.  I know you brought me here for a reason, but I'm struggling to see it right now.  I ask the Holy Spirit to intercede for me, Father.  Listen to my pain and guide me to your word and help me to hear your voice.  I need to know what to do here, Father.  What I'm doing isn't working.  

I honestly have no idea what compelled me to suddenly pray in the middle of the empty dining room, but that night had been so tough that it was all I had left.  The quicksand was about to swallow me.

The next morning, I opened up my Bible.  I was several days behind on the Ephesians study I had been doing from She Reads Truth, so I had no clue what was coming up next.  Imagine how I felt when this was the topic:

And just like that, Jesus reached out to me and pulled me out of the quicksand.  I realize I will continue to struggle with people pleasing because it is part of my nature, but this scripture really helped me get a better grasp on how I can serve Christ and find joy at work, even when things are difficult.  

Being a people pleaser and a servant are two different things.  The crucial issue is motivation.  Whom and I trying to please?  I returned to Galatians 1:10 and read, "Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God?  Or am I trying to please men?  If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ." 

Whom do I serve?  If I am striving to earn the approval of people, they will always disappoint me.  I will get stuck in the trap of trying to please everyone and my failure to do so will land me right back in the quicksand, kicking and screaming while I get buried deeper and deeper.  But, if I remember that it is God that I serve, my job suddenly gets much easier.  He sees me as a perfect, precious creature thanks to the redeemed blood of Jesus Christ.  He knows my heart and the pressure is off! I need to work with joy and know that when I do my job well, I am pleasing God.  By working with a good attitude and conducting myself with integrity, I am putting a smile on the face of the only one I truly need to concern myself with.

Yes, there will be difficult shifts and moments when the drama of the workplace threatens to throw me back into the quicksand.  But I am a servant of the King of Kings.  He hand will always be there to pull me out, to rescue me, and to reassure me that I am His beloved.  As The Message translation of Ephesians 6:7 reminded me:

"No matter who is giving the orders, you're really serving God."

Put your heart into it, work with joy, treat my coworkers with love and fairness.  Keep your priorities in order and keep your promises.  Serve sincerely.

It is my prayer that this truth will revolutionize my attitude at work and help me to do my job better than ever.

How about you?  What truths do you cling to to help you in the workplace?  How do you deal with trying to "fit in?"  Anyone else fall into the trap of people pleasing?


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