The Servant Heart
Some people love to do things for others. They enjoy meeting a need or making the load lighter for someone else. They hate to say no, no matter how busy they are or tired they are, when someone needs their help. It doesn’t matter if that someone is their boss, their coworker, their neighbor, a friend or family member; it might even be a complete stranger. If they can help, they will and do so cheerfully. They have a servant’s heart.
This is a good trait to have, right? We love these people! We can count on them to come through for us in a pinch, time after time.
If you are one of these people, you probably recognize yourself too. You will agree that you do love helping people. It energizes you like nothing else. It is what you are called to do.
However, someone might look at the description in that first paragraph and define it differently. They might say that the person who ‘hates to say no’ is a ‘people pleaser.’ So what is the difference between a servant heart and a people pleaser?
The People Pleaser
A people pleaser is generally defined as someone who feels they need to try and keep everyone in their life happy with them. Or it can be defined in the reverse; they want to keep people from being mad or upset with them. They hate to say no to anyone, just like the servant-hearted person. Both people pleasers and those with a servant heart dislike conflict. Either one might forego their own preferences rather than argue about them or cause someone else disappointment. Both can become overwhelmed and stressed from the demands they allow to be placed on their lives. Actually, you can be a mixture of the two, and many people are. But there is a difference.
The Difference Between the Two
The difference, as in many things, is the motivating factors involved. As stated in the first paragraph, the servant heart enjoys meeting people’s needs and lightening the loads of others. They love to brighten someone’s day and encourage them. It doesn’t matter whether it was expected of them or not. It is just part of who they are.
For the people pleaser, they may or may not have the underlying motivation of a giving heart, often times they do. However, there are other motivators in play as well. The people pleaser bases their self-worth on other’s opinions of them. If they disappoint someone or even feel like they haven’t lived up to the expectations of others (or God), their self-worth takes a nosedive. If people disagree with their choices or see their mistakes, then they feel they are not loved or liked. In other words, they base their value and happiness on other people’s opinions of them.
The people pleaser’s reason for not wanting to say no is slightly different than the one with the servant heart. The servant-hearted person feels bad when they have to say no, because that means the requester has to do additional work to find another person or will have to do the task themselves. It is their love and concern for the requester that motivates them and causes them to say ‘yes’ whenever they can. This may also be true of the people pleaser, but it is hard for them to untangle that motivation from their fear of rejection and judgment by the requester.
The feelings felt after having to say ‘no’ to a request also often differ between the two. The servant heart will feel concern over whether the need is going to be met and what difficulties their negative response may have caused the requester. The people pleaser may have the same concerns, but that concern will also be accompanied by strong feelings of guilt and fear of judgment on behalf of the requester. Because the person with the servant heart does not have the mixed motives of the people pleaser, they have no guilt or fear of judgment, only the genuine concern.
What Causes a Servant to Become a People Pleaser
Generally, this negative, guilt ridden, fear based response of people pleasing is something that has developed overtime because of a servant-hearted person being manipulated and criticized by others they have been in relationship with. Being continually on the defensive due to another person’s volatile emotions and lack of gratitude can easily implant the idea that self-worth and love is based upon your level of performance. It also creates a fear that your performance will never be good enough and that saying no is a selfish act, one deserving of guilt.
We all have to make choices about how we are going to spend our time and our resources. Saying yes to one thing will often mean having to say no to something else. Sometimes we need to choose between good, better or best, not just right or wrong. Sometimes saying yes to what you need for yourself and no to what someone else needs is the best choice, sometimes it is not, but always allow that option.
For some good advice on breaking away from people pleasing patterns in your life, visit this blog article: Stop Being a People Pleaser in Four Easy Steps.
Let your self-worth come from God’s opinion of you, not others. (He thinks you’re awesome!)