When the Opinions of Others Carry Too Much Weight

The weight was heavy and it wasn’t the number on the scales but the scales were tipping for sure — tipping because I allowed someone else to stand on the scales with me and  I’m pretty sure that’s never allowed in  the Weight Loss 101 class!

People pleasing has been a part of my story since I was a little girl.  The label has even been updated to “approval addiction” but the story is still the same.

Growing up  I wanted to please my Mom and Dad  and sister and brothers.  Truth be told, that carried right along into my adulthood because things embedded rarely free up just because your birth certificate declares you’re an adult.    Being the good preacher’s kid that I was, this fine art of people-pleasing-approval-addiction  spilled right over into those relationships in my church as well.  Of course, friends and teachers at school only added to the list of those I wanted to please.  Being liked was important to me; not rocking the boat– even more so.  It always seemed to go better that way.  I was pleasant and compliant and life seemed to go more smoothly.

This little plan worked so well for so long  until Jesus got in the boat!  The closer He took me to  God’s heart, the more I realized He had a special story written just  for me which might just happen to please some — but not everyone.  You see , everyone has an opinion — a thought about how life should be.  Some express that subtly while others  express it with more boldness and passion. But for all, their story is being written by God as well.  However,  it becomes a very different kind of book if I try to fit under their “title”  when my story is meant to be in another book.  It makes the story confusing and hard to follow — disjointed and a “hard read”.

While trying to walk along on the path God has for me, I naturally intersect others along the way.  This has been God’s design all along that we intersect with the lives and the stories and the paths of others but when I leave my  path and story and try to blend in with someone else’s path, it seems chaos and confusion occur .  There’s a struggling to get up and get going because I’m waking up in someone else’s story and not my own.

The view  gets foggy and I begin to feel I can’t see my way clearly .  All of a sudden I can’t seem to make decisions because the core system has changed and no one sent me the revisions — the new rules — the new script.  I begin ad-libbing and it all sounds so insincere.  Nothing feels natural …instead,   hard and stressful .

There’s no freedom or  skip in my step.  The skip I’m feeling is  on rocks and roots everywhere and I wonder why someone hasn’t cleared the path for me !!    The weight becomes heavier and heavier until  I want to get off the path completely.  This seems the only way to get full relief.  The things I love about the original story written for me seem so far away and I begin not liking anything about my new surroundings.  The root of bitterness and resentment trip me up.  I feel more and more anxious and forget who I really am.  Who I really am seems to be getting lost in someone else and their opinions and expectations .

There’s a warning sign up ahead that shows up in the foggy distance …”Wrong Way”!  It’s then that I realize why everything looks so hard and disillusioning … I’m on the wrong path  and I’ve allowed the opinions of others to hold me there with  a  ball and chain and it’s causing me to sink.   This weight is weighing me all the way down until my knees are weak and my  face is in the dirt and I see it now …  this is not my path– the one  God has marked out for me .  This is someone else’s path …a terrain He’s perfectly fitted and equipped someone else for.  My path is down a few streets and  while it might have bumps and twists and turns, God has fitted me for that path and on it I see more clearly and feel more at home — more naturally suited.  On someone else’s path I feel tired, worn out, frustrated, burned out and anxious — overwhelmed.

Wasn’t it Jesus Who said …”

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke  upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)

“Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t  lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you .” ( from The Message)

It’s very tiring trying to carry the burden of approval and acceptance of others or trying to fit into their equipment for the race marked out for them.  The size  never fits and it seems to squeeze the life out of me.   When I allow the opinions of others to try to squeeze me into their mold, there will always be a breaking and the   feeling that I can’t breathe and I’m anxious to get out !

Ironically, the signs are clear when the life is being  squeezed out  and there’s nothing left.  Answering the phone feels like something of a monumental task — the receiver too heavy with the weight of  what might be asked of me.  Anxiety begins to grip when I look at my in-box and I’m the one that feels in a box — a box that’s closing in on me.  And the hardest task of all is to make that first step — that step out — the step to freedom and away from the box I’ve allowed others to wrap me up in.  As I come out I’ve got to throw everything off that keeps me weighed down — the approval of others, their expectations, acceptance and opinions of how my path is supposed to look.

There is no one else quite like me and that was God’s intent all along.  But then that all goes back to knowing in my soul who I am and who I am before God.  I can’t stand in view and judgment of who others say I am or what they want me to do.  It’s a walk and rhythm  with Jesus, the real Author of my faith. (Hebrews 12:1-3).  He’s already walked this path for me , securing the journey and marking the trail.  It’s fixing my eyes on Him — Jesus — and listening to His gentle calling to me to keep me on the right path.

Some will love it; others will not.  However, the mere thought of the expectation or frustration or blocked goals others may feel are too heavy for me to carry and these are the weights that I have to throw off — “let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.” (Hebrews 12:1)  Could it be one of the greatest sins  I have to “throw off” is trying to please others?  trying to run the race they’ve marked out for me instead of the race Jesus has marked out for me?  Do opinions and expectations of others tangle me up more than I realize — tripping me up until I’m weak and wounded? and isn’t this a choice I have ? …to fix my eyes on Jesus and let Him keep me from drowning? …drowning in my own sea of fear   made by my own thoughts of what others think?   Funny thing is, as I’m drowning in that fear I look up and realize this water looks very familiar —  it’s my own worry that I’m sinking in.  Everybody else is usually happily swimming along and it’s my thoughts that have created the flood that now seeks to drown me.

I’m hearing His voice to me again this week  to stay on the path God has marked out for me.   I’ll probably disappoint somebody.  It’s never easy, you know.  Rehab for approval addiction is a long process …one baby step at a time.      I’d say, “Aren’t  you proud of me?” but then that would only perpetuate the whole cycle again. 🙂



Joy Waters Martin

My kids tease me sometimes that my definition of a situation going well is often described as, "It was 'life-giving' " -- meaning, it may have had some conflicts or uneasy moments or stress but all in all , something about it breathed life into the situation and the people involved...something of the heart was moved in a good direction. I'm all about LIFE ... life with my husband, life with 4 adult children, their spouses and 8 grandchildren (to date, that is :), life in our home and life in a wild adventure we tend to label "ministry". In reality , all of these categories mesh together to make up the "organic me". Relational , redeeming and restoring are some of my favorite words and they give life to my soul as I walk it all out with Jesus Christ, the Giver of all life. Profile Photo by: Melody Martin

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  1. Anne G.

    Joy, Thank you for sharing your heart in this blog. You know I can relate. 🙂 So let me not perpeturate the cycle by saying “I’m proud of you” but rather let me say, “I’m proud to be your sister in Christ”. Praise God for His unconditional acceptance and love.

    1. Joy Waters Martin

      Thank you Anne ! Pray that I walk in this truth daily — I already had a lapse 😉 …but keep moving forward .

  2. Marilou

    Oh my goodness. You have me “pegged.” So it is called “approval addiction?” I guess that is appropriate! It seems like every phone call, text or email (or sometimes even a FB post) stresses me because it usually means somebody needs something from me and I don’t want to dissapoint or even worse, fail at yet something else. Especially since I struggle with meeting my own family’s needs right now! No wonder I don’t want to answer the phone!

    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Joy Waters Martin

      haha Marilou !! We are made from the same mold 😉 You’re in good company . Love God — and love on your family — that’s probably enough on your plate for now. We just have to say “no” to everything else so we can say “yes” to our current calling . We’ll walk with each other !

  3. Bruce W. Martin

    Good stuff…as always. (Not that my approval is needed.)

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