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Why Christian Women Are Conditioned to be People Pleasers (And How They Can Break Free!)

by | Aug 27, 2020 | Articles, Boundaries, Emotional Abuse, Healing from Spiritual Abuse, Survivor Identity | 4 comments

We’re going to start with the bottom line on this subject, and it’s this:

All the crappy things on this planet (that have to do with humans) boil down to control and responsibility. Who controls whom? And who is responsible for whom?

You’d think the controllers would also be the ones taking responsibility. But nope. The controllers put the responsibility on the ones they are controlling.

And the ones that are being controlled take the responsibility.

(Hat’s off to the amazing Bob Hamp of Think Differently Counseling who first introduced this idea.)

How do the controllers get away with this? Why would we let them do this to us? Two words.

People. Pleasing.

Hence, the topic of our little article today.

Christian Women are Conditioned to Please People

Through the use of carefully crafted propaganda, controllers condition their minions to believe it is good to please all the people. Especially the controllers.

There is a Christian spin on this that you may recognize, and if you look even further, you’ll see a disturbing pattern when it comes to gender.

The Christian Spin….

“Christian” controllers (please note the quotes) tend to be men while the minions tend to be women. Not always, of course. Women have their own hierarchies in Christian circles, and some will use the tactics of their male counterparts to create their own minions.

Why? Because apparently it’s a mark of awesomeness to have minions? I don’t know. Feels like junior high to me, but there’s the silly reality of it.

I’ve observed a pattern in every single church I’ve ever been involved in. Christian women are conditioned through teaching and peer pressure to be people pleasers.

Are You a People Pleaser?

Tell me if you have experienced the following symptoms of people pleaseritis:

  • Do you feel guilty for saying no?
  • Do you feel like you have to apologize all the time?
  • Do you feel bad when your choices make other people sad or mad?
  • Do you believe it is your Christian duty to please your elders and their wives? Your family members? Your extended family members? Your friends?
  • Do you worry about what others will think of you if you make a decision they don’t agree with?
  • Do you require validation for your choices from an authority figure?
  • Are you afraid to be yourself? To authentically show up?
  • Do you feel overworked and stressed out because you can’t say no?
  • Do you fail to keep all your plates spinning and feel terrible when some of them crash to the ground?
  • Do you throw yourself under the bus to keep others satisfied and placated?
  • Do you feel like everyone needs you?
  • Do you worry that perhaps people only love you for what you can give rather than for who you are?
  • Do you define yourself by what others say about you?
  • Do you regularly struggle with feelings of anger, resentment, exhaustion, confusion, and insecurity?
  • Are you confused about what is “right and wrong?”

I know very few Christian women who don’t struggle with those things, and that’s because the Christian community spawns and raises pure, bonafide people pleasers. Most of them female.

Which is pretty sad when you think that we would do better to please God instead of people. (Gal. 1:10, Acts 5:29, Eph. 6:5-9, John 12:43)

Ah, but there’s the rub…

When you please CERTAIN men – like the ones you live with or go to church with – then you ARE pleasing God.

According to those men.

Which is quite convenient for those guys, don’t you think?

Or maybe you were raised in a family that said, “If you please your parents, you are pleasing God.”

Which is all fine and good if your parents aren’t getting themselves confused with God. But some are. And that petri dish grows some incredibly brainwashed people pleasers.

Maybe you are one of them. Join the club. Let’s recover together from this debilitating, soul crushing syndrome.

Why Do Many Churches Want People Pleasers in the Pews?

Well, let’s see. We could divide the human race into three types.

The People Pleasers

One type pleases people and is easily manipulatable. (Is that a word?) This is one way of living in emotional childhood.

The Pleased People

The second type pleases themselves and uses the first type to get what they want. This is another way of living in emotional childhood.

The Adults

But there is a third type. I like to think that Jesus was an example of this type of person. It’s the kind of person that:

  • Has healthy boundaries
  • Shows up and takes responsibility for herself
  • Wisely stewards her time, body, and resources
  • Lives an authentic life in alignment with her personal values
  • Has respect for others as well as self-respect
  • Doesn’t try to control others but instead…
  • Controls herself
  • Allows others the space to be who they are (even if they are an asshole) but also…
  • Distances herself from their toxic behavior (knowing she can only control herself)

This third type demonstrates what emotional adulthood looks like.

And emotional adulthood is the opposite of people pleasing.

So let’s go back to our question. Why do some religious cultures want people pleasers in their pews?

Because people pleasers can be controlled. They can be guilt manipulated. They are easy prey for brainwashing via religious propaganda.

In these environments, a good Christian woman makes a good volunteer. A good sex partner. A good pot-luck contributor. A good influence on her husband so he will tithe. A good example for all the other women so they won’t begin to get ideas that they might have ideas.

In the Christian home, a good Christian woman will obey and keep her man satisfied. She will make him good meals and keep his house clean and raise his children. She will support his career and his opinions and his habits. She will believe the stories he tells, even if they aren’t true. She will cover for him when he strays and make him look good in the church. Why? Because that’s what good Christian women do. And she knows it. She has been brainwashed to believe this story.

(And by the way, many of those things are wonderful things to do. But if our reasons for doing them are from fear of what others will think if we don’t, then our emotions will be less than motivating, and the results less than desirable. There are better reasons for caring about others. Love being the best reason. Fear being the worst.)

What are the consequences of people pleasing?

Consequences to the Christian Woman

  • Burn out
  • Resentment
  • Loss of identity
  • Weak boundaries
  • Inauthentic
  • Loss of purpose (she eventually realizes it’s not possible to make everyone happy)
  • Fear of being herself
  • Suicide ideation
  • Overeats, overdrinks, overworks, or engagnes in other “acceptable” addictions that keep her stuck
  • Compromises personal values
  • Sense of lostness
  • She remains stuck in emotional childhood and never fully matures emotionally.

Consequences to Christian Culture

  • Women are viewed as a means to an end rather than as powerful allies in the Christian effort to bring love and hope to others.
  • Church leadership remains stuck in emotional childhood, never fully maturing into their potential as responsibility-taking adults.
  • The church culture sets an example to the world and to children that it is right and good for some people to control and manipulate other people, depending on gender and other preferred distinctions.
  • Little boys grow up believing women are for their consumption, and little girls grow up believing it is their destiny to be consumed. (And that this is the “godly” way!)
  • And I’m sure there are many more, but honestly, I’m tired and want to watch an episode of The Good Doctor on Hulu before I go to bed.

Examine Your Beliefs About People Pleasing

But here’s what I’d like you to examine. I’d like you to look more closely at the thought errors that create this environment that says people pleasing is an acceptable and even desirable attribute for Christian women. To do this, I’ve got some questions, and I want you to answer them for yourself. These questions will reveal your beliefs about the church, leaders, men, women, and God. Are you ready to discover what you believe?

  1. Do good people make everyone happy? How? When? Where do you draw the lines on who you are supposed to make happy, when you should make them happy, and what you need to do to make them happy? And why do you draw those lines where you do? Should everyone draw the lines where you do? If so, why? If not, why not? Did Jesus make everyone happy?
  2. Do other people know what is best for you? Which other people? Why those people and not others? Who decided which people know what is best for you? Where do you fit in? What is your experience with others knowing what is best for you? Did people know what was best for Jesus?
  3. Are you loveable only if everyone loves you? Like, EVERYONE? If everyone does not love you, who needs to love you for you to be loveable? Who needs to love you for you to be worthy? To have meaning and purpose? Who needed to love Jesus for Him to be of value to this planet?
  4. Think of someone you love very much. Why do you love them? Is it okay if they also love themselves? If not, why not? Is it okay for you to love yourself? Why or why not? If you are to love others in the same way you love yourself (Matt. 22:39), how great is your capacity to love others? Did Jesus love and care for Himself? If so, why and how? If not, why not?
  5. Are you responsible for your loved one’s emotions? Why or why not? How do you take responsibility for someone else’s emotions? Where do you get that power? Is God responsible for your emotions? Why or why not?
  6. Do you believe all the humans have freedom to make their own choices for how to live their lives? Why or why not? Does God give humans freedom and responsibility to make their own choices? Does He give some humans control over others? Why or why not? Did Jesus control anyone?
  7. Do you trust God? What do you trust God for? Some things? All the things? What do you expect Him to do? Make everything in the world turn out perfect so everyone is happy? Did everything turn out happy for Jesus and His followers? Was life fair to Him? If not, who was responsible for not making life fair? God? People? Jesus? Is life supposed to be fair?

Most readers will skip over these questions and never examine their beliefs in this area. Why? Because our human brains want to keep things status quo. Our brains are efficient that way. They want to just keep running the same programming over and over in loop. The problem with that is it keeps us stuck in the same patterns of thinking which cause the same emotions which cause us to make the same choices over and over which give us the same negative results.

And nothing ever changes.

I double-dog-dare ya to really answer those questions in order to reveal your thought loops. You might discover, as I did a few years ago, that I believed some pretty crazy things. Things that made absolutely no sense. It wasn’t until I decided life wasn’t working, and I wasn’t getting the results I wanted in my life, that I finally had the courage to look more closely at my beliefs.

It was painful, I’m not gonna lie. But once I faced the truth about my programming, I was able to interrupt it and change it. I’ll be doing that work until I die, but it’s a good work. A worthwhile work. I recommend it if you, like me, want to be different from who you are today.

Here’s the bottom line. (I know, I know. I gave the bottom line at the top.) But here’s the BOTTOM, bottom line:

You can either be a people pleaser and slowly be erased from existence (because that’s what happens to people pleasers. They disappear.) OR, you can please God by being who He created you to be. By showing up in your full color as a badass adult who knows when to say yes—and when to say no.

Just remember that when you show up, some folks aren’t gonna be pleased, no sirree.

And that’s okay.

Because you’re not a people pleaser anymore.

Fly Free,

P.S. If you need some education, motivation, coaching, and support to help you transition from people pleaser to badass adult, consider joining the Flying Free Sisterhood program when it opens up again October 1, 2020. This is the last time it will be open until April 1, 2021, so don’t miss your opportunity! You can hop on the waiting list HERE.

Here’s what one member has to say about her experience with this program:

My main concern was that I’d get a lot of what I’ve already gotten through therapy and other support groups, which obviously wasn’t working because here I am! The frank and straightforward, easy-to-understand way in which Natalie presents the truth has been so clarifying and freeing for me and has aided me exponentially in seeing clearly!

Flying Free Sister

4 Comments

  1. Lesa

    It’s funny how God’s timing works… Last night I talked with my counselor about these things you have shared. This was further clarification and inner processing. Those questions… But I am so grateful for the opportunity to be honest with myself and work out the false beliefs that allowed me to live with a very controlling and abusive man for 22 1/2 years. I did become invisible. The damage to myself and my kids is very deep. I am so grateful for the fact that God loves what He created in me and is teaching me how to love it too.

    Reply
  2. Lori

    Thank you Natalie for this post. I was a member of the January 2019 Flying Free group. The content and information you provide continues to be SO helpful to me. I am a former Catholic turned Christian 12-years ago, some of the life long Christan dynamics you discuss are not familiar to me… Although I have said for years, I know I stayed in an emotionally abusive alcoholic marriage to my 2nd husband WAY longer than I should have (or would have) because of my Christian walk. Thank you for this post, I can now better articulate how I have felt for many years.

    Reply
  3. Chelle

    So wonderful. Such a good breakdown of the truth (power, control, smooth operation) behind why women have been in a repressive culture called “godliness”. Curious if you can unravel how it’s been packaged in such a way that even ministers truly believe that it’s godly. Yes, some are clearly just happy to be the catered to but there are other Christian ministers who buy into this false narrative. They truly believe that they are doing God’s work by perpetuating this societal norm.

    Reply
    • Natalie Hoffman

      It’s just their programming, plain and simple. We are, as a collective group, programmed. It’s like being in the Matrix (if you’re familiar with that movie.) People need to see the problem first – and then they need to be willing to wake up. It’s painful, and it requires a lot of work. But those who are awake are happy to not be controlled by others anymore.

      Reply

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